Hospitals must earn the trust of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to close the gap

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Hospitals need to earn the trust of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by listening to their experiences of hospital care and working with them to make changes that will address issues, the Heart Foundation said on Close the Gap Day.

Hospitals need to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their families in leading changes to the health system to close the gap, the Heart Foundation said today.

“Heart disease is responsible for most of the gap in mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians,” said Reitai Minogue, National Manager for the Lighthouse Hospital Project. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are three times more likely to have a heart attack and to be admitted to hospital for acute coronary syndrome. They also die from cardiovascular disease at almost twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

“But they are less likely than non-Indigenous Australians with heart disease to have coronary angiography and other cardiac procedures, or to receive cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack.”

Ms Minogue said hospitals need to earn the trust of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by listening to their experiences of hospital care and working with them to make changes that will address issues.

The Lighthouse Hospital Project is working with 18 hospitals around the nation to transform the experience of healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. “In particular, we want to reduce the incidence and impact of patients discharging themselves against medical advice,” Ms Minogue said. “This can lead to future health problems that might have been avoided.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are more likely to discharge themselves against medical advice, for a variety of factors. Many have a distrust of hospitals, and they might encounter poor communication, institutionalised racism or cultural insensitivity. They might have obligations back in their community that they feel they must return to. Or they might

feel the pull of country; the relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to their land is a powerful force.”

Ms Minogue said Lighthouse Project hospitals were making a wide range of changes to try to make their environments more culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Bairnsdale Hospital in Victoria has created a beautiful garden with bush foods and native plants where patients and their families can gather and ‘yarn’ in a comfortable space. Other hospitals have identified a need for many more Aboriginal health workers and liaison officers, particularly in cardiac wards.

“Hospitals are also looking at improving discharge arrangements. Sometimes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people miss out on timely care after they leave hospital because their Aboriginal health service does not receive their discharge notes. New processes and partnerships will ensure that GPs receive the discharge summary, and that a follow-up appointment is made before the person leaves the hospital.”

About the Lighthouse Hospitals Project

The Lighthouse Hospitals Project is a joint initiative of the Heart Foundation and the Australian Hospitals and Healthcare Association. The third phase of the Lighthouse Hospitals Project is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health through the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program.

NSW: Coffs Harbour Health Campus, John Hunter Hospital, Liverpool Hospital, Orange Health Service and Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital

NT: Royal Darwin Hospital

QLD: Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Mount Isa Base Hospital, Princess Alexandra Hospital, The Prince Charles Hospital and Townsville Hospital and Health Service

SA: Flinders Medical Centre

VIC: Bairnsdale Regional Health Service

WA: Broome Regional Health Campus, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Kalgoorlie Health Campus, Royal Perth Hospital and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

Media enquiries: Liselotte Geary, Senior National Media Adviser, Heart Foundation, 0411 310 997 or liselotte.geary@heartfoundation.org.au