An agreement between Queensland Health’s North West Hospital and Health Service, Gidgee Healing Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service and Western Queensland Primary Health Network aims to better meet the health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Lower Gulf.
The Lower Gulf Strategy will integrate the health system at every level. It will allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in decision making affecting their health, and ensure health services are structured around the needs of the individual, family and community. There will be a strong focus on preventive health care and encouraging healthy lifestyles.
The Lower Gulf Strategy will provide comprehensive primary care to the three Lower Gulf communities of Mornington Island, Doomadgee and Normanton, as well as seamless referral pathways for specialist care.
Gidgee Healing, as a regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, will lead change through a greater community-controlled model of care, and will provide greater cultural integrity within programs and services.
Implemented late last year, the Lower Gulf Strategy aims to: reduce chronic disease among the Mornington Island, Doomadgee and Normanton communities and prevent young people getting chronic disease; transition Community Health Services to community control (Gidgee Healing); improve access to child and maternal health services; improve access to mental health and substance abuse services, particularly for children and youth; and increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff employed in the health services in these three communities.
The North West Hospital and Health Service has been working with the Western Queensland Primary Health Network and Gidgee Healing to provide comprehensive primary care. On Mornington Island, Gidgee Healing is co-located with the Hospital and Health Service at Mornington Island Hospital. In Doomadgee, the two services are also co-located. In both locations they are squeezed for space. In Normanton, Gidgee is located at its own health hub in town, but the two teams work closely together. With a greater emphasis on primary care and disease prevention in the three communities, the teams have developed new ways of working.
Key features of the model are partnerships across the health continuum with patients, family/carers and care teams; customised care around patient goals; and working with local providers to best care for patients’ needs. It promotes flexible team based care supported by a shared workforce, central care coordination, access to health literacy and self-management, and sharing of information.
Challenges are real but surmountable. More clinical services space is needed in Doomadgee and Mornington Island. The main entrance to health services needs to be in primary care, as our focus is on prevention and primary care. There is very limited staff accommodation in Doomadgee and Mornington Island. The two services are working together to source capital funding to improve the infrastructure.
Early indicators of success in all three locations are the increasing numbers attending Gidgee Healing for primary health care and a subsequent drop in presentations to the hospital. This signals that the focus on primary and preventive health care is resonating with the communities. People are seeking health services earlier and more regularly, rather than waiting until their conditions are chronic or acute before seeking help.
Staff in the three organisations are working together to overcome the barriers to better health outcomes for the people they serve.