Katherine needs more housing to fix massive health problems, doctors say.
About 100 health experts gathered in Katherine today for the annual HOT NORTH conference.
Katherine Hospital head physician Dr Simon Quilty said the health problems associated with homelessness need to be fixed.
“The biggest problem we face is that there is not enough accommodation here,” Dr Quilty said.
“People who are coming in off their lands into Jawoyn and Wardaman lands are living at Walpiri Camp, there is no dignity there.
“We have had a refugee camp on our doorstep for the past 35 years. We need to be more creative, there should not be a transient camp in Katherine,” he said.
Wurli’s medical services director Dr Peter Fitzpatrick said “There does not seem to be the political will to solve the problem of housing” in Katherine.
“These things can be done, they just are not being done,” Dr Fitzpatrick said.
Dr Quilty also touched a renewed increase in alcohol related injuries.
“Any doctor at Katherine Hospital can tell you that in the past three or four years alcohol related presentations have dropped significantly,” Dr Quilty said.
“That was due to Temporary Beat Locations. It has worked in some regards but it is an inherently racist philosophy. I do not know what the answer is.”
The HOT NORTH workshop was led by Menzies School of Health Research and included talks from local health professionals and researchers.
It covered regionally important health concerns such as antimicrobial resistance, diabetes in pregnancy and youth, rheumatic heart disease, and scabies and skin health.
As one of the top Aboriginal health providers in the country, Katherine Hospital plays an important role in helping to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes.
“More and more young people are developing type 2 diabetes. We are seeing 15, 14, 13-year-olds developing type 2 diabetes and then they've got kidney impairment by the time they're 25 or 26 and they are on dialysis in their early to mid-30s,” Dr Quilty said.
In addition, the Katherine region has the highest rates of homelessness and the highest mortality rate of any region in Australia.”
The teaching workshop gave Katherine health professionals learning experiences that develop and transform health practices across northern Australia.
“Katherine Hospital has made some impressive improvements in how they care for Indigenous people and that’s something that we as researchers and health professionals can learn and benefit from,” HOT NORTH director Professor Bart Currie said.
“Katherine Hospital and the health clinics servicing Katherine have made significant progress over the past number of years. It now ranks as one the top hospitals in Australia for its relationship with its Indigenous patients.
“It’s the transfer of research and practical experience into better service delivery that will help us close the gap across the north and protect the north from tropical and emerging diseases,” he said.