Aboriginal Health Worker Calls for More Indigenous Hospital Staff in Darwin

Photo Credit: Victoria Redman

Reporter ABC News

April 8, 2016 – More Indigenous staff are needed at Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH), the Northern Territory's Aboriginal health worker of the year says.

Sarah Bukulatjpi won the NT's Aboriginal health practitioner of the year award in 2015 for her work on chronic disease, including hepatitis B screening and education.

Ms. Bukulatjpi said because of language and cultural barriers, people with chronic illness often decided not to go to hospital in Darwin or found it too intimidating to stay.

“When they go there, then they have to run away because there's no escort for them or someone to be with them,” Ms. Bukulatjpi said.

“They feel scared or sometimes they feel like they're in a different area or different country.”

Ms. Bukulatjpi is the chronic disease team leader at the community-controlled Miwatj Health Ngalkanbuy Health Centre at Galiwinku on Elcho Island, off the Arnhem Land coast.

There are more than 2,000 Yolngu Matha speakers at Galiwinku, which is also home to Indigenous musician Gurrumul Yunupingu.

RDH has been under scrutiny this week, after accusations from Gurrumul's manager and kidney specialist that he was written off by staff as a drinker when his condition, in fact, related to childhood hepatitis.

The Northern Territory's Health Minister John Elferink has defended the hospital and its staff, but has not retracted allegations that Gurrumul's record label Skinnyfish Music has been using the singer's health as a publicity stunt.

“What you've seen is evidence of a very grumpy minister, who has seen his staff maligned across this country,” Mr Elferink said.

Increasing Aboriginal workforce a priority: hospital

Aboriginal health workers are trained to give primary health care in remote settings and bridge the gap between Western and traditional medicine, and Ms. Bukulatjpi said the hospital should employ more of them.

“We need Yolngu staff to work closely with doctors and nurses to give the clear message to the patient,” she said.

“Sometimes they don't know what they're talking about. You know what Yolngu say? They say, ‘Yes, yes, yes', but really they don't understand what the doctor and the nurse [are] saying.”

READ FULL ARTICLE:Aboriginal Health Worker Calls For More Indigenous Hospital Staff In Darwin“. ABC News. N. p., 2016. Web. 4 May 2016.

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