NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO opposes Community Pharmacy Trial

feature tile text 'NACCHO and the ACCH sector oppose the proposed Queensland community pharmacy trial' & image of medicine cabinet from ACCHO Wathaurong Vic

NACCHO opposes Community Pharmacy Trial

Earlier in February 2022, the Queensland Government were proposing a trial in North Queensland to allow pharmacists to autonomously diagnose and prescribe medications for potentially serious and complex medical conditions without collaboration with doctors or a client’s broader healthcare team.

NACCHO and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) in Queensland, along with the RACGP and the AMA, strongly oppose the proposed pilot project. The ACCHO sector are seriously concerned that it sets out to indiscriminately increase the scope of practice for community pharmacists without due consideration for safety, effectiveness, or manifest community need.

Dr Dawn Casey, NACCHO Deputy CEO, said, “The trial is proposed for a region in Australia with a very large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, but the proposal makes no mention of the increased health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the need for culturally-safe, comprehensive primary health care.

“There has been insufficient consultation with the community-controlled sector on the proposed trial. Furthermore, the proposed trial will fragment care and result in missed opportunities for comprehensive team-based primary care. An example is the proposal to diagnose and treat acute otitis media. A condition that needs extensive and comprehensive follow-up of hearing health to help address hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.

“Pharmacists are a valued part of the primary care team and NACCHO supports their role integrated within our ACCHOs where they provide for high-quality, team-based care.”

Dr Karen Price, RACGP President, said that the lack of consultation was concerning and indicative of a poorly thought-through pilot.

“This is just another example of why this pilot was doomed from the beginning,” she said.

“Not only has proper consultation not occurred, but there has also obviously not been adequate thought given to how this pilot will impact the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

“North Queensland has a higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the stark reality is that that many of these patients have complex health needs that require careful monitoring and follow-up from a GP. This pilot will compromise their long-term health because we will see a fragmentation of care.

“I’m not surprised that the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council has joined the RACGP and other health groups in withdrawing from the steering committee.”

Dr Jason King, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation Senior Medical Officer, said, “Our communities deserve the highest quality care.  The pilot project fragments health care for some of the most vulnerable. It undermines the decades of work the ACCHO sector has done to bring us closer to closing the gap in health amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

He further added, “Pharmacists play an important role in primary health care, however, their proposed scope of practice expansion is a bridge that will see low quality, disconnected health care that places the lives of our communities at risk with no indication of cultural safety or holistic approaches that we know are necessary for success.”

Dania Ahwang, Wuchopperen Health Service CEO, said, “ACCHOs are best placed to provide client-centred, culturally safe, integrated and holistic health and wellbeing care for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Far North Queensland.

“We are concerned with the lack of consultation to date regarding this pilot project given that the proposed service model being implemented by the pilot will seriously fragment and undermine the high-quality primary health care services that we provide to our communities. This also raises further concerns with potential for increased morbidity and mortality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Far North Queensland which, instead of closing the gap, will make it even greater.”

Debra Malthouse, Apunipima Cape York Health Council CEO, said, “We are concerned about the negative impact this pilot will have on the quality of health care for the large Aboriginal and Torres Strait population in North Queensland region.  Many First Nations peoples have significant chronic disease burdens and co-morbidities that require ongoing care delivered through a comprehensive primary health care model.

“We expect that this pilot will focus on the patient’s condition, with little or no consideration of the multiple factors that impact on the health and wellbeing of First Nations peoples.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have higher levels of mortality and morbidity than other Australians and the implementation of this pilot will only serve to widen the gap.”

To view a related ABC News article North Queensland Pharmacy Scope Practice Pilot will put vulnerable patients at risk, doctors say click here.

Dr Jason King, Gurriny Yealamuck, ACCHO, Yarrabah, Far N Qld

Jason King is Director of Clinical Services at Gurriny Yealamucka, an ACCHO based at Yarrabah in far north Queensland. Photo: Brendan Mounter, ABC News.

$25.5m funding round for ACCHO infrastructure

A $25.5 million funding round has been opened for critical infrastructure projects at Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) to support these services to continue their critical work. The Service Maintenance Program (SMP), which provides funding for repairs, maintenance and minor upgrades for ACCHS is part of a $1 billion national commitment to help achieve Closing the Gap (CTG) Outcomes, and part of the $254.4 million CTG health infrastructure measure announced by the PM in August 2021.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the funding round will give priority to projects related to ventilation and infection control. Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said that ACCHS are a core part of the Australian health system, delivering comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view Minister Hunt’s media release in full, click here.

outback clinic looking a little rundown

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Plan to boost Indigenous home care

The WA Department of Health has launched the first of five partnerships with Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) to deliver care for older Aboriginals leaving hospital. The initial partnership, in Bunbury, is part of the Transitional Care Program (TCP), jointly funded by the Federal and State Governments.

In a statement, the Department said the TCP provided care to older people for up to 12 weeks after their hospital discharge, including social work, nursing support, personal care and allied health care. “It ensures that people who no longer require hospital care have the necessary support in place to safely return to the community, while ensuring hospital beds are available to patients with acute care needs,” the Department said. “It is anticipated that this innovative approach will enable greater access to aged care services for Aboriginal people,” it said.

The Department said the Bunbury program was being delivered by the South West Aboriginal Medical Service, while the Broome and Geraldton Aboriginal Medical Services would soon be participating. “A further two AMSs are expected to sign up to the pilot program, with services to begin later this year,” it said.

To view the article in full click here.

Aboriginal man with cuppa on balcony talking to Aboriginal woman

Image source: Coordinare South Eastern NSW PHN.

Petrol prices impact travel for health services

Soaring fuel prices are making it increasingly difficult for people in rural areas to afford travel, with growing fears people will be forced to “go without” critical services like medical appointments and grocery shopping. With average unleaded petrol and diesel prices hovering around $1.80 a litre in regional areas and peaking much higher at some outlets, many rural residents are falling victim to price gouging due to a lack of competition.

Katrina Ward, from the Aboriginal Medical Service in Brewarrina and Walgett, north-western NSW, said the price of fuel was worsening the disadvantage experienced by rural residents, especially low-income earners and pensioners. “This is going to impact our community members quite severely because already most of them, unfortunately, have a low socio-economic status and are on pensions,” she said. “The additional costs for transport will eat away into their already small budgets.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

road signs in outback, Wanaaring via Folly Tank, Tilpa, Bourke, Louth

Many rural residents must drive hundreds of kilometres for specialised healthcare. Photo supplied by: RFDS. Image source: ABC News website.

Support for community’s COVID-19 recovery

The Yappera Children’s Service, based in Thornbury, Victoria, is to receive $88,000 in federal government funding to deliver a range of trauma-informed, culturally-sensitive activities to support the community as it recovers from the effects of COVID-19. Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said parents, carers and their children will get the opportunity to come together, talk about their experiences, and reconnect in a safe and nurturing environment. “Families in Thornbury lived through some of the longest lockdowns and the extended isolation has affected people’s connections to community.

As an essential service, Yappera Children’s Service continued to open its doors through both the waves of the pandemic and has seen first-hand the impacts on the mental health of children, families, its workers and the community in general.” To view Minister Wyatt’s media release in full click here.

row of young children with black polos with words in gold 'Yappera dancers' feathers, raffia headdress

Yappera dancers from Yappera Children’s Service. Image source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day website.

NT nurses transition to country

Acting NT Minister for Health, Nicole Manison, says twelve NT nurses will spend the next 12 months building their skills and providing services to remote communities under the Transition to Remote Practice Program. The program is designed to bolster the Territory’s remote nurse workforce and help nurses develop a broad range of skills to cover emergency care and general primary health care issues with a focus on culturally safe practice and Indigenous health needs.

Program highlights include a remote emergency course, maternity emergency course, accredited vaccination course, pharmacotherapeutics training and ongoing education support. To view the NT Acting Minister for Health’s media release in full click here.

7 people in eye assessment tutorial, purple latex gloves holding eyeballs

Eye assessment tutorial. Transition to Remote Area Nursing page of Centre for Remote Health website.

Indigenous leadership and governance funding

A $21.9 million Indigenous Leadership and Governance package will support the next generation of Indigenous leaders. The Indigenous Leadership and Governance package includes: $13.5 million for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) to continue its operations and implement a strategic plan for expansion to support young Indigenous Australians to undertake leadership roles, further education and employment; $6.7 million for Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) to develop governance training materials for Indigenous organisations; and $1.7 million to the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) to provide scholarships for Indigenous Australians to undertake company directors’ courses, and to monitor and evaluate the entire package.

To see the PM and Minister Wyatt’s joint media release in full click here.

Pat Turner with PM Scott Morrison & Minister Wyatt at Parliament House press conference

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM, with Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, and Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon. Ken Wyatt AM, MP, at the announcement of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap at Parliament House, Canberra, 30 July 2020. Photo credit: AAP.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

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