Gillie Freeman is a proud Jiddubal man from the rainforest people of far north Queensland. He has worked at Western Health since 2020, as an Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer. With National Close the Gap Day on 18 March 2021, Gillie and his colleagues from Wilim Berrbang, Western Health's Aboriginal Health Unit, are working to break down the barriers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attending medical appointments.
On average, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a shorter life expectancy than non-Indigenous people by 10 years and experience higher rates of preventable illnesses such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. A collaboration between Western Health and Deakin University is breaking down barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receiving outpatient support and, in doing so, is working towards Closing the Gap.
There are an estimated 5,000 residents in the western region of Melbourne who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Of these, over 800 have diagnosed complex and chronic health issues that require ongoing care.
At Western Health, patients who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians are 28% more likely to be referred to Outpatient Services but are 30% less likely to attend a scheduled appointment than other patient groups.
Part of this collaboration is to identify why attendance is so much lower, and to address these issues through the creation of a dedicated clinic at Sunshine Hospital, providing support to patients to attend appointments. An Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer will facilitate a flexible patient-centred model of care that is coordinated by a general medicine specialist. The clinic will offer multiple disciplines and services such as a diabetes educator.
"Our overall aim for the clinic is to create a culturally sensitive environment where patients feel safe and reduce the barriers that stop Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from attending scheduled appointments so they receive the medical care they need and deserve," said Gillie Freeman, Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer.
"Feedback about the clinic from patients, our Aboriginal Health Steering Committee and Aboriginal Community groups has been really positive."
"It's great to be able to put support in place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so they attend appointments and receive ongoing treatment and care. We want patients to feel comfortable and not rushed or overwhelmed in a busy waiting room," said Gillie.
The clinic will open in mid-April 2021 at Sunshine Hospital. To find out more about the clinic, contact [email protected]