Still a long way to go to 'Close the Gap'

Unified approach: SWSLHD social worker Brandy Murphy and nurse Rhonda McPherson with Wendy Pomeroy, Yin Chooi, Pam Rowel and Les Jenkins from the Budyari Community Health Centre in Miller. Picture: Simon Bennett
Unified approach: SWSLHD social worker Brandy Murphy and nurse Rhonda McPherson with Wendy Pomeroy, Yin Chooi, Pam Rowel and Les Jenkins from the Budyari Community Health Centre in Miller. Picture: Simon Bennett

In south western Sydney, Indigenous Australians are almost four times more likely to need dialysis.

Are almost twice as likely to be hospitalised for mental health disorders and endocrine diseased.

They are also almost twice as likely to leave emergency departments and hospitals against medical advice.

These statistics were released by the South Western Sydney Local Health District during its Closing the Gap event at Liverpool Hospital, last Thursday. The figures raise the question –  when will the gap close?

“Not in my lifetime,” responded one aboriginal health care worker.

The national Closing the Gap report found Indigenous people die on average 10-17 years earlier than non-Indigenous Australians and have significantly higher rates of chronic illness and preventable diseases largely wiped out in other high-income countries.

It also concluded that Governments were failing to meet all but one key measure, despite closing the gap in health equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians being an agreed national priority.

SWSLHD social worker Brandy Murphy based at the Budyari Aboriginal Community Health Centre in Miller said there were only two health social workers in the region that were Aboriginal.

“The Budyari team have a holistic approach to health,” she said. 

“We are talking about a those social issues that impact on health and well-being, and the team have been doing this for a very long time.

“When we are presented with a patient, sure they have come to us because of their health but when you unpack it there are so many social issues affecting them.”

As part of the health district’s Closing the Gap event, it announced an additional $1.2 million dollars would be allocated to the Integrated Team Care program which improves access to chronic disease services for Indigenous people.

The district’s director of Aboriginal Health Nathan Jones said the program was aimed at addressing the disparities in health care.

“The funding boost has enabled us to hire three additional care coordinators, Aboriginal health workers and a service manager to ensure our staff can continue to identify and share best practice in meeting the needs of Aboriginal people with chronic diseases,” he said.

“The ITC program provides culturally appropriate primary care services including but not limited to general practice and allied health to further enhance our well established Aboriginal Chronic Care program.

“While the growth in our services is encouraging, there’s still work to be done.”