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The heart attack rate for Indigenous Australian in 2011 was 2.5 times higher than that of other Australians. In 2010, the prevalence of lung cancer in Indigenous Australians was nearly double that of other Australians. And despite indigenous people having greater health needs than other Australians, Indigenous Australians used specialists 178 times less per 1,000 people.
There is clearly a huge gap that needs to be filled here, but it is not that simple. Access to government-subsidised medical specialists for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is filled with red tape and rife with barriers.
There are services not being offered, referrals not being made, medicines not being prescribed and procedures not being done!
But also, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders may not be taking up the services being offered to them, as they have lost trust and belief in the value of these services. There is also evidence services were not being offered by medical staff because they assumed those offers would not be taken up.
Specialists only travel once a month to remote areas, and patients have to fly in or drive very far distances to see them. There is just not enough funding to send specialist outs more regularly, and to more communities.
It all boils down to a lack of political will to make Indigenous people a focus of health and social services policy. There is just not a willingness to work within Indigenous cultures and communities.
For too long now Indigenous people have not had equal rights to health services in Australia. Not only does the government need to help them with a change in polices and additional funding, but they also needs to win their trust back.
Fiona Nash, do not let this opportunity pass you by. You have the opportunity to do something your predecessors have not: made a difference in the lives of Australia’s marginalised and forgotten people. Australia’s indigenous people need access to health care. We demand a change in policy and more funding in a national specialist access plan that could be included in the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan.