Photo: Front (left to right): Acting Nursing Director Quality and Safety Louisa Dufty, Indigenous Liaison Officer Lane Brookes, Chief Executive Linda Patat, Indigenous Health Coordinator Rodney Landers Snr, Aboriginal Health Worker Patricia Morris, Indigenous Liaison Officer (Women’s Business) Rheanna Bartley and Acting Executive Director Primary and Community Services Wendy Jensen. Back (left to right): Aboriginal Health Worker Donna Hooper, Indigenous Liaison Officer Barry ‘Rainman’ Boland and Board Chair Jim McGowan.
The South West Hospital and Health Service has launched a comprehensive strategy to ensure health services are engaging more closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and addressing their needs.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy 2018–2022 also aims to encourage more Indigenous residents to take up employment and leadership roles within the health service.
“As a health service, we are strongly committed to improving our services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents and to delivering them in culturally appropriate ways,’’ South West Hospital and Health Board Chair Jim McGowan said.
“Earlier this year, we released our health service’s 2018–2022 Strategic Plan, where closing the gap in health inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents is one of our four core priorities over the next four years.
“But achieving this requires much more than the provision of clinical services, it requires us to have an understanding and respect of cultural differences and needs, and a commitment to applying this understanding across all areas of the health service.
“The aim of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy is to provide direction and a framework for working towards this goal.’’
Mr McGowan said the South West HHS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy’s five key priorities were:
• Promote opportunities to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in South West HHS leadership, governance and workforce.
• Provide safe, visible and culturally responsive person-centred care.
• Improve local engagement and partnerships between the South West HHS and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations.
• Work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities to meet their healthcare needs.
• Promote transparency and accountability for Closing the Gap.
Mr McGowan said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experienced generally higher levels of chronic disease, increased rates of avoidable hospitalisations, higher rates of avoidable lifestyle-related deaths, lower life expectancies, significantly disparate overall health outcomes and greater difficulties in accessing appropriate health services.
“These are all areas of deficiency that we want to target here in the South West,’’ he said.
“We recognise that closing the gap in health outcomes is a long-term and challenging process.
“It involves addressing social, economic and political inequity and the inequality of health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at multiple levels.
“Closing the gap in health outcomes also involves collective effort from the health system, workforce, and primary health care sector.
“Our new Indigenous health strategy is our blueprint for ensuring we are all working together and in an appropriate, consultative way towards achieving our set goals.’’
Mr McGowan said the South West HHS already had developed a network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officers who provided advocacy and support for patients.
“Additionally, we employ Advanced Aboriginal Health Workers in several of our facilities who support clinicians in the delivery of health services through community engagement and health promotion,’’ he said.
“Thanks in large part to their work, and the work of all our staff, about 95 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients report good or very good experiences with our health service.
“We recently also established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Advisory Council to provide clinical leadership, engagement and expert advice to the highest level of operational management in our organisation.
“We see the creation of our advisory council earlier this year as a significant step forward in closing the health care gap in our region, as it will provide greater strategic direction on how we can better deliver quality outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“And as part of our new health strategy we intend to further strengthen the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our health service governance and in our workforce.’’
Mr McGowan said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up about 13.4 per cent of the total South West population but only 3.4 per cent of the health service workforce identified as Indigenous.
“Therefore, one of the priorities within our new health strategy, is to implement and monitor strategies to grow our future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce through incentivised employment programs such as cadetships, scholarships and traineeships,’’ he said.
“I believe that, by pursuing our new strategy, working together and continually striving to meet the specific needs of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health consumers, we will be able gradually to reduce the gap in health outcomes that currently exist in our region.’’
For further information contact:
Public Affairs Officer
South West Hospital and Health Service
0447 645 315