"Access To Specialist Healthcare in the Kimberley For Desert People."
About: Broome Health Campus Broome Health Campus Broome 6725
Posted by Mulan Man (as ),
I am an Aboriginal man living in the remote desert area of Mulan Aboriginal Community in the Tanami Desert. I live with my elderly wife and extended family. Mulan is our home.
For people living in very remote communities such as ours, English is a second or third language. Communication with mutual understanding is vital.
I’m sharing this story about our recent healthcare experiences so that frail persons don’t suffer as my wife did.
Recently my wife required a cardiac appointment in Broome. This involved a morning flight from Mulan to Halls Creek; waiting for the Greyhound bus; then leaving at 10pm that evening to ride to Broome (8 hours to the west). All this was booked through the Patient Assisted travel Scheme office (PATS).
After her appointment my wife was left in Broome with no money, no return bus fare and no accommodation. She spent the night homeless. My wife was rescued by the local police who recognised she was hypoglycaemic and took her to Broome Hospital where she was stabilised. With the help and intervention of a friend, PATS was contacted and a return bus fare was organised for that evening to Halls Creek where my wife was hospitalised for three days waiting for a flight back to Mulan. This could have been avoided with better planning, travel, accommodation and effective communication.
One possible solution is to explore the possibility of using the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) plane which arrives every Friday from Broome with medicines for the clinic, and transports nurses in and out. Why can’t some of our mob go on that plane for appointments, so avoiding all those hours of travel, especially for our elderly?
My wife also suffers from serious kidney issues. We have been told that renal dialysis is the next step. This will involve twice weekly dialysis which would be done in Broome. For this treatment, we will be expected to leave our family, “country” and home to live in Broome, over 1000 kilometres away.
Kidney disease is a major health concern in our communities. My point is why can’t we have a dialysis machine in Balgo - our biggest community in the desert, 30 minutes from my community? This would reduce the number of patients and their carers travelling to a major town, so avoiding a lot of financial and other social situations. I know there are renal machines in other communities - it makes sense! In the long run, the money spent on transferring our mob across the Kimberley would surely pay for a machine and staff.
My wife will require ongoing medical care. Yet her experience is part of a much larger story where our younger people (who escort loved ones to towns for treatment) are subject to the vices a town offers. In going to town, many of them get lost from their cultural identity. Having services in country closer to home and keeping our families in community helps to avoid these social issues.
I hope that sharing our story will result in more effective planning and improved services in the future.