“The federal government does not manage Indigenous health services and nor should it. Given Australia’s longstanding bipartisan support for self-determination, the government will not interfere.”
Following the murder of remote-area nurse Gayle Woodford, the federal government has given an Aboriginal health organisation $1.5 million to bolster security and safety of workers in eight remote South Australian communities.
A spokesman for federal Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash yesterday said the government would bring states together to discuss remote health worker safety by reconvening a lapsed Council of Australian Governments committee, but it would not interfere in the running of Indigenous health services.
Ms Woodford’s employer, Nganampa Health Council, which operates eight clinics in South Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, was given the money after an internal review and an external risk analysis of the safety of its workers.
The organisation’s medical director Paul Torzillo said the review had led to changes to policies and procedures, including ensuring that nurses did not respond to call-outs at night without being escorted by a trusted community member.
“We’re doing the sort of things you’d expect us to be doing in this situation,” he said. “We’ve re-emphasised a lot of what was already policy for us and we’ve made some changes to areas of policy and we’re implementing those things, especially around night calls. This will essentially involve people from the community.”
Nganampa, which is funded by the federal government, has also advertised for an after-hours co-ordinator based in Alice Springs to recruit after hours- workers in each community.
Woodford, 56, went missing from her house in the remote Aboriginal community of Fregon on March 23. Her body was found four days later in a nearby shallow roadside grave.
Local resident Dudley Davey was charged with her murder and is due to appear in court next Tuesday.
In the weeks following her death, nurses around Australia rallied on social media to pressure governments and health organisations to improve nurse safety, including ending single- nurse posts in remote communities and ensuring two workers attended night call-outs.
A change.org petition to the federal government, which was closed on April 8 with more than 130,000 signatures, has been reopened, with the petition’s organisers citing a lack of leadership from the federal government in putting an end to single-nurse responders for after-hours call-outs in remote areas.
The government provided $240,000 to remote nurse organisation CRANAPlus to expand and enhance its remote nurse counselling and advice phone service
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