Aboriginal hand with cannula on edge of hospital bed

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: AMA says COVID-19 shows a need to reset health spending

COVID-19 shows a need to reset health spending

According to AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, Australia needs to reset it attitude to health expenditure, with a fundamental reassessment of the priority put on real increases to health spending. “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to rethink many of our assumptions about the functioning of society. Absolutely fundamental to this is our understanding of what a health system that is fit for purpose looks like,” Dr Khorshid said. “The pandemic has shown the strains on so many parts of our health system, particularly aged care, mental health, and protections for our frontline healthcare workers, as well as the need to keep this deadly virus out of our Indigenous communities. There can be no avoiding it. A serious investment in health with a substantial real increase in spending is required.”

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Sunrise Health Service worker checking heart of patient

Barunga Healthcare worker Desleigh Shields. Image Source: ABC News website.

Diagnosing otitis media with telehealth

Each year 650,000 Australian children suffer from recurrent or chronic ear infections called otitis media (OM). OM can cause permanent hearing loss but is entirely preventable when treated early. Aboriginal children are disproportionately impacted by middle ear disease with OM affecting one in four children in Australia – but one in every two Aboriginal children. The current average wait time of two years for assessment is too long for children who are in crucial key stages of language, behavioural and educational development. Struggling to understand what is happening to them, many may face long-term social or mental health impacts.

Paediatric audiologist Dr Chris Brennan-Jones is committed to finding solutions for ear health – like changing assessment wait times from two years to 10 days. Dr Bennan-Jones is working with an ear health partnership in metro Perth called Djaalinj Waakinj – ‘Listening, Talking’ in Noongar language. In a program that is the first of its kind in Australia Djaalinj Waakinj fuses telehealth technology with support from local Aboriginal health workers to facilitate remote diagnosis of OM.

To view the full article click here.

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones sitting outside with laptop

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones. Image source: Particle website.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Health scholarships

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying, or intending to study, entry-level health courses could receive life changing financial assistance to follow their passion thanks to the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS). The PHMSS is designed to encourage and assist undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australians’ health and his role and Chair of the NACCHO.

To read the full article about the PHMSS in the National Indigenous Times click here.

Applications for the PHMSS are now open and will close on Sunday 8 November 2020. For more information click here.

portrait of Ashleigh Ryan PHMSS recipient

PHMSS recipient Ashleigh Ryan. Image source: Australian College of Nursing website.

NCCRED Clinical Research Scholarship Program

The National Centre for Clinical Research on Emerging Drugs (NCCRED) has developed a Clinical Research Scholarship Program to build the scope and capacity of clinical research on emerging drugs across the drug and alcohol sector. This is a national program open to clinicians at all levels, anywhere in Australia. NCCRED is opening TWO new competitive rounds which will give financial and research support allowing recipients to conduct a new research project. The rounds will have a focus on the following areas:

  • Practicing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals (clinicians, nurses, allied health workers) in the AOD sector.
  • nursing and allied health professionals preferably practicing alcohol and other drugs nurses and allied health professionals, though applications are open to all clinicians working within the AOD sector.

For more information about the NCCRED scholarship program click here. 

Applications are now open and close on 6 November 2020.

Aboriginal health professional sitting in from of Aboriginal D&A banner

Image source: ABC News website.

National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce Communique

You can read the full National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce Communique #25 here.

National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce logo

Image source: National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce website.

COVID-19 transmission in educational settings

Since March 2020, the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) has joined forces with the NSW Ministry of Health and NSW Department of Education to investigate COVID-19 cases in schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services.

You can view the webinar Learning together – Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in NSW educational settings covering COVID-19 transmission in NSW educational settings, what the latest data show and how a multi-disciplinary approach has helped people learn together by clicking here.

Nawarddeken Academy school - 14 Aboriginal students sitting at a table

Nawarddeken Academy school. Image source: The Conversation website.

Melbourne workers of concern to Tennant Creek health groups 

Up to 10 gas pipeline workers from a coronavirus hotspot have begun quarantining in a Tennant Creek hotel under a Government-approved plan that Indigenous health groups are demanding be shared with them. The group from Melbourne has also been given permission to leave the hotel under an arrangement organised for maintenance work on Jemena’s Northern Gas Pipeline, which runs from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa. The vast majority of people arriving in the NT from coronavirus hotspots are ordered into a fortnight of supervised quarantine at designated facilities in Darwin or Alice Springs at a cost of $2,500.

Indigenous health groups are concerned the alternative arrangement risks coronavirus spreading to Tennant Creek’s majority Indigenous population and that of nearby communities. Barb Shaw from Anyinginyi Health, the region’s major Indigenous health service, said she had requested to see the company’s COVID-19 management plan early last week but never heard back.

To read the full ABC News story click here.

portrait of Anyinginyi Health CEO Barb Shaw

Anyinginyi Health CEO Barb Shaw. Image source: ABC News.

Keep Our Mob Safe from COVID-19

The latest update on COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, communities and organisations is available click here. Things can change quickly so it is important to stay up to date.

Keep Our Mob Safe, Stop The Spread banner

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

2021 seasonal influenza preparation required

During 2020 there was a significant demand for seasonal influenza vaccines in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. It is anticipated that this demand is likely to continue and also be evident for future seasons. To this end, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer is encouraging key stakeholders to turn their minds to their preparations for next year’s season. To view the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer’s letter to stakeholders click here.

text flu season syringe inserted in vial

Image source: 1011 Now News website.

PBS changes a win for palliative care

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) welcomes much needed improvements to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings for opioids, which will clarify their important role in alleviating suffering for palliative care patients. AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the Association supported important reforms to reduce the inappropriate use of opioids in Australia. Dr Khorshid said the original PBS changes implemented on 1 June 2020 caused significant confusion and concern from prescribers and their patients, unintentionally making prescriber access to opioids more difficult for palliative care patients with a legitimate clinical need. This was particularly difficult for non-cancer palliative care patients.

The AMA has been advocating to the Department of Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration, providing feedback from AMA members on the 1 June 2020 changes. “The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has reflected this feedback in the 1 October 2020 PBS listing changes, so it’s pleasing that the vital advocacy work of the AMA has been heeded,” Dr Khorshid said. “Patients will be exempt from the 12-month pain management review by a second doctor or palliative care nurse practitioner if their clinical condition makes the review not possible. “This is an important change for palliative care patients who may be too unwell for this to occur.”

To view the AMS’s media release click here.

Aboriginal man with arms around Aboriginal woman looking out across river in Australian landscape

Image source: Palliative Care Victoria.

Social enterprise to tackle remote NT food inequities

An urgent food crisis is threatening remote Aboriginal communities across the country, with an estimated 1.2 million Australians unable to regularly access culturally appropriate, safe and nutritious food from a non-emergency source. Kere to Country, a new First Nations-led social enterprise, hopes they can make a difference, starting in Alice Springs/Mparntwe. Kere means ‘food from animals’ in Arrernte.

Three young Indigenous entrepreneurs—Jessica Wishart, 31, Jordan Wishart, 25, and Tommy Hicks, 24 (pictured below) —were inspired to do something about the crisis after visiting Alice Springs/Mparntwe. The trio saw Aboriginal communities couldn’t afford essential products that were necessary to keep their families healthy and safe. “It’s an urgent crisis—one that has been going on for a really long time, but it’s gotten worse since the pandemic,” CEO Jessica Wishart said.

The concept is simple: Kere to Country will provide remote communities with access to meat through bulk purchases or smaller packs. Aiming to eventually expand to all of central Australia, the team will distribute packs to Alice Springs/Mparntwe, both in and out of town, and the Tennant Creek region.

To visit the Kere to Country website click here.

Kere to Country entrepreneurs Jessica Wishart, Jordan Wishart, Tommy Hicks

Kere to Country entrepreneurs Jessica Wishart, Jordan Wishart, Tommy Hicks. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Palkyu descendent 2020 Australia Mental Health prize finalist

Professor Helen Milroy is one of seven finalists in the running for the 2020 Australia Mental Health prize. The Prize, now in its fifth year, recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

Professor Milroy is recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor, completing medical studies and specialist training in child and adolescent psychiatry. She is passionate about combining Aboriginal and western knowledge systems to improve outcomes. Her work and research in the areas of holistic medicine, child mental health, recovery from trauma and grief, application of Indigenous knowledge, and cultural models of care have made a significant difference to the lives of children and young people, particularly those with a trauma background. Her efforts in developing and supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce and cultural safety in health and mental health through curriculum development, education and training, implementation and evaluation, has had a lasting impact on Aboriginal health and mental health across Australia.

To view the full article about the 2020 Australia Mental Health prize finalists click here.

portrait of Professor Helen Milroy

Professor Helen Milroy. Image source: AusDoc website.

Breast cancer survivor fears many others won’t

Breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but what’s more concerning is that not a lot of these women survive. It’s a hidden disease that shows no symptoms until it has developed into a lump some time down the track.

Aunty Joy was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 48. She had a single mastectomy and says “I am a survivor and still a sufferer. Around the time of my diagnosis, there were no radiographers where I was. But if I had waited, who knows what the end result would’ve been? I went through the experience alone and it was traumatic, something that I don’t want to see other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women go through. Every two weeks I would take myself to chemotherapy, the most grueling and horrible experience with side effects that were harrowing.”

portrait photo of Aunty Joy

Aunty Joy. Image source: MamaMia website.

To read the full article about Aunty Joy’s breast cancer journey click here.

ACT – Canberra

Social Media Communications Coordinator

NACCHO is seeking a Social Media Communication Coordinator to manage and maintain NACCHO’s social media presence and daily blog. The position requires working cohesively with the NACCHO Communications team towards the creation and delivery of social media campaigns and driving key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector new content across channels. To view details of the position click here.

Applications close at 9.00 am Friday 16 October 2020.

AFL Indigenous All Stars coach Michael O'Loughlin with the “Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” app

AFL Indigenous All Stars coach Michael O’Loughlin with the “Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” app. Image source: Australian Government NIAA website.