May 25
Recognising historic experience of Aboriginal patients key to reconciliation

​A project underway at Orange Health Service which aims to improve the experiences of Aboriginal patients while in hospital is an important step towards reconciliation, Orange Lighthouse Project Officer, Mandy Debenham said ahead of Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June).

“We want to improve the hospital experience for Aboriginal people. This includes looking at ways to improve communication, the patient experience and care, staff knowledge and their cultural competency by providing targeted strategies to improve education for staff, understanding the Aboriginal patient journey and by providing a culturally appropriate and safe environment for Aboriginal people," Mandy said.

“Improving the identification of Aboriginal patients when they present to hospital also ensures they receive the right service at the right time and can lead to earlier identification of risk factors, better cultural understanding and better service provision and program planning."

Orange Health Service is one of 18 hospitals across Australia that are part of the Lighthouse Hospital Project, a federally funded joint program by the Heart Foundation and the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA) to transform the experience of healthcare for Indigenous patients by trying to make their environments more culturally safe.

Understanding the history behind why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients are five times more likely to leave hospital against medical advice is key to achieving reconciliation in the hospital system, the Heart Foundation and AHHA said today.

National Reconciliation Week's theme 'Don't Keep History a Mystery' highlights the importance of all Australians exploring our past, learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and developing a deeper understanding of our national story.

“Closing the heart health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians requires understanding why many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients have a distrust of hospitals," Reitai Minogue, national manager for the Lighthouse Hospital Project said.

“Historic experiences such as racism, miscommunication and mistreatment have influenced the level of distrust, which is reflected in the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients are five times more likely to leave hospital against medical advice."

“Initiatives such as those underway at Orange Health Service are important steps towards rebuilding that trust," Ms Minogue said.

Dr Chris Bourke, a Gamillaroi man and Director of Strategic Programs at the AHHA, said the five dimensions of reconciliation – race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, unity and historical acceptance directly relate to the Lighthouse goal of achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who go to hospital after a heart attack.

“The inequitable situation whereby Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are 30 per cent less likely to receive appropriate care after a heart attack demands action," he said.

“Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and health organisations is the most effective tool for building cultural safety in our public hospitals, reducing discharge against medical advice and improving care pathways after discharge."

“Understanding the true history of Australia allows non-Indigenous clinicians and health administrators to be aware of the background to our current situation, learn about their stereotypes, reflect on practices and build trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."