NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: COVID-19 antiviral eligibility expanded

Image in feature tile is from today’s ABC News COVID-19 antiviral treatments to become available to more Australians article. Photo source: Pfizer via AAP.

COVID-19 antiviral eligibility expanded

From today, more Australians will be eligible for COVID-19 antiviral drugs in an attempt to reduce the number of people in hospital. Health Minister Mark Butler said he was hopeful expanding the eligibility would help ease pressure on hospital systems. “COVID cases and hospitalisation numbers are climbing, particularly with the new variants,” he said.

Under the current rules, the drugs are restricted to Australians who are 65 years or older with particular risk factors, but from today any Australian who tests positive to COVID-19 and is over the age of 70 will be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Known as Lagevrio and Paxlovid, the drugs cost about $1,000 but because they are on the PBS they are reduced to $6.80 for a concession card holder. People aged over 50 with at least two risk factors that could lead to severe disease, as well as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 30 and older with at least two risk factors will also be eligible.

A broader range of chronic respiratory conditions have been added to the risk factors list. They include moderate or severe asthma, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, demyelinating conditions and renal impairment. Risk factors already on the list and that will remain include neurological conditions, such as stroke and dementia, cirrhosis, kidney failure, obesity, diabetes type one or two, and anyone who lives in remote areas and doesn’t have access to higher level healthcare.

To view the ABC News article COVID-19 antiviral treatments to become available to more Australians in full click here.

Paxlovid will be one of the antivirals available to more Australians under the scheme. Photo: AAP. Image source: ABC News.

Winnunga health service comes a long way

From its humble beginnings as a temporary medical service set up at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy site, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Winnunga) has grown into an important part of the health services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the national capital. WNAH&CS have recently moved into a new, purpose-built facility in Narrabundah, enabling the service to do more. 

Julie Tongs’ vision as CEO, a role she has held since 1997, has always been for Winnunga to be a leader in the provision of primary health care. “All Winnunga wants to do is give people an opportunity to be better, to feel good about themselves, and to start to work through some of the layers of trauma that Aboriginal people have experienced,” Tongs says.

Winnunga was established in 1988 by local Aboriginal people inspired by the national mobilisation of people around the opening of the new Parliament House in May and the visit by the Queen.  Since then it has grown into a pivotal healthcare service, which last year saw some 7,000 clients. Providing around 60,000 occasions of service to its clients annually, Managed by the local Aboriginal community, Winnunga takes a “holistic” approach to health care offering clinical and medical services, and social health programs.

To view the Canberra  City News article Winnunga health service comes a long way from the Tent Embassy in full click here.

Outside the new health centre in Narrabundah… “We managed the project, built it on time and on budget, without any government involvement apart from the funding,” says Julie Tongs. Photo: Holly Treadaway. Image source: Canberra City News.

Changing First Nations birth narrative

Shanara Fourmile wakes with a small pain under her belly. It’s seven in the morning and the sun is pouring through the window of her home in the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah. As she opens her eyes, her water breaks. Shanara, an Irukandji woman from far-north Queensland, knows the baby is coming.

She texts her sister, who calls an ambulance. Yarrabah women are directed to birth in Cairns Hospital — an hour’s drive through rainforest, winding coastline and cane paddocks. Shanara knows she won’t make it so she’s taken to Yarrabah’s small emergency department. It doesn’t have a permanent obstetrician. There’s no anaesthetist or resourcing for an emergency caesarean. No access to epidural or equipment to resuscitate a newborn if the baby is struggling to breathe. And no blood bank in case women haemorrhage after birth.

Kaurna and Narungga woman Tayla Smith, Yarrabah’s first Indigenous midwife who works at Gurriny Yealamucka Aboriginal-controlled Health Services says women some women wait until it’s too late to go to Cairns as they want to have their baby on Gunggandji Country. Local health workers call these women “the naughty mummies” of Yarrabah. While there are benefits for having the baby close to home, in Yarrabah it comes with serious risks. The clinic is just not set up to deliver babies. And if there are complications during the delivery, the consequences could be dire.

To read the ABC News article Meet the Black matriarchs changing the narrative of First Nations births in full click here.

Irukandji woman Shanara Fourmile gave birth to her baby girl Keilani in Yarrabah’s small emergency department in June. Photo: Kristy Sexton-McGrath, ABC RN.

NT mob worse GI cancer survival rate

Survival rates for gastrointestinal (GI) cancer among Northern Territorians have improved in the past 30 years but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the Territory still have worse survival outcomes, a new analysis has found. “We need a concerted effort aimed at investigating the existence of modifiable sociodemographic factors underlying these disturbing trends,” Savio Barreto, Study Senior Author and Associate Professor, General Surgeon, Flinders Medical Centre and Researcher, Flinders University

“There is a need to enhance preventative strategies, as well as to improve the delivery of cancer care and its uptake amongst Indigenous peoples.”

The study, published in the journal Cancers, reviewed data from the NT’s Cancer Registry between 1990 and 2017, looking at adenocarcinomas of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum and pancreas, which are collectively known as GI cancers.

To read the News Medical Life Sciences article GI cancer survival rates improving among Northern Territorians except for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in full click here.

Image sources: News Medical Alert, heal+h plus.

Palm Is receives grant for youth program

Palm Island youth who have disengaged from the formal education system are the target of program to be delivered by the Palm Island Community Company in partnership with the state government. The Bwgcolman Youth Program will support local 13-to-17-year-olds by linking them with training, education and employment opportunities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said the project was one of five locally led initiatives across the State, totalling more than $1 million, to improve community social health. “The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve mental health, emotional wellbeing, and social outcomes,” Mr Crawford said. “It will also respond to substance misuse, and reduce rates of suicide in their communities,” he said.

“Like other Local Thriving Communities initiatives, the Program supports First Nations peoples to make decisions about their own future, build on their strengths, invest in things that will make their communities stronger, and make an enduring difference to people’s lives.

To read The National Tribune article Palm Island Community Company secures $235,000 Queensland Government grant to develop youth training program in full click here.

Queensland Maroons legends visiting Palm Island youth. Photo: Siobhan Heanue, ABC North Queensland.

Docker River aged care facility upgrade

Culturally safe aged care sites and face-to-face support for older First Nations people are being invested into by the Australian Government. The programs are anticipated to cost a combined $221 million and will be delivered over four years.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Malarndirri McCarthy, said First Nations communities experience many barriers when accessing aged care services. “Lack of culturally safe care, a complex system, ongoing trauma, and social and economic disadvantages all contribute to older First Nations people accessing aged care services at a rate lower than needed,” she said. “The government is committed to delivering aged care and health services that meet the needs of our Elders and enables them to remain close to their homes and connected to their communities.”

Four National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care (NATSIFAC) services in SA, the NT and Queensland will receive funding to construct culturally safe, purpose-built facilities. Among them will be the rebuilding of Kaltukatjara’s Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care, which which will provide care for First Nations peoples at Docker River.

Australian Regional and Remote Community Services (ARRCS) general manager, Wendy Hubbard, said the location for the rebuild will be close to the existing Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care service. “That means our residents can stay where they are at Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care and we can continue providing services without disruption, and watch our vision come to life,” she said.

Better mental health for Minjerribah youth

Better mental health and life outcomes for young people on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) is the target of the Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health in partnership with the Queensland state government. The North Stradbroke Island Indigenous Youth Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program will facilitate after-hours activities and yarning circles with Elders, offer counselling sessions and specialist services, and provide a safe place for young people to go when feeling overwhelmed.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said the project was one of five locally led initiatives across the State, totalling more than $1 million, to improve community social health. “The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve mental health, emotional wellbeing, and social outcomes,” Mr Crawford said. “it will respond to substance misuse, and reduce rates of suicide in their communities,” he said. “Like other Local Thriving Communities initiatives, the Program supports First Nations peoples to make decisions about their own future, build on their strengths, invest in things that will make their communities stronger, and make an enduring difference to people’s lives.”

To view the Queensland Government media release Yulu-Burri-Ba Corporation secures $235,000 Queensland Government grant to improve mental health for Minjerribah youth in full click here.

Image sources: logo from Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health website, ORIC.

Ex-NRL star tackles mental health challenges

Owen Craigie was a teenage Rugby League prodigy. The only player to make the Australian Schoolboys team three years straight. While blitzing at schoolboy level, Craigie signed his first professional rugby league contract with Newcastle Knights in the early 1990’s, when he was just 17, and bought a house.

After leaving the club two years later, he had stints at the Wests Tigers, the Rabbitohs and Widnes in the English Super League. When he retired in 2005, things got tough. Craigie has previously spoken of how he turned to drugs, alcohol and gambling, and said he lost an estimated $2 million to his addiction. And three years ago, he said he entered the darkest phase of his life. Craigie went through rehabilitation, and says he’s now been able to recover.

“I am a different person than I was three years ago … I see my kids now. Life’s good. I am working on a couple of businesses.” Craigie said his biggest achievement over the past three years is that he has “found himself”. “I have mates that couldn’t,” said Cragie, who’s now determined to help those in the community who face similar challenges. He has just opened a gym; his charity, the Big OC Foundation, and his Chase the Energy initiative both aim to help people who’re battling addictions and mental health challenges. “I am passionate about [helping people] because I want to help the next Owen Craigie.”

To read the SBS NITV article How former NRL star Owen Craigie turned hardship into happiness in full click here.

Owen Craigie’s Chase the Energy initiative aims to help people battling additions and mental health challenges. Image source: SBS NITV.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.