Low PFAS results showing up in Wurli patients in Katherine

Wurli Director of Medical Services, Dr Peter Fitzpatrick is finding low levels of PFAS in his patients.

Wurli Director of Medical Services, Dr Peter Fitzpatrick is finding low levels of PFAS in his patients.

Wurli Director of Medical Services Peter Fitzpatrick says PFAS blood test results are showing low levels in his patients. 

The primary health care centre in Katherine for Indigenous people has seen results from about 100 tests. 

Dr Fitzpatrick said while the Wurli board is very concerned with the PFAS issue, in terms of primary health care for Indigenous people, it is not at the top of the list. 

“The issues in Indigenous primary health are huge. [PFAS] is lower on the list,” Dr Fitzpatrick said. 

“What really brought it home was when [the Department of Defence] said don’t eat the fish. That is a significant part of [Indigenous people’s] traditional diet, and it is an activity that they’ve lost,” he said. 

Dr Fitzpatrick said The Voluntary Blood Testing Program at Wurli is still in the early stages. 

And with the window for blood testing open until next year, he is in no rush to push for more. 

Wurli-Wurlinjang is an Aboriginal community health service.

Wurli-Wurlinjang is an Aboriginal community health service.

“We won’t chase people up… We will increase awareness about availability in the coming months,” he said. 

“The indigenous population is very mixed, but a lot of our population doesn’t watch the 7’oclock news...so a lot of the information is provided by us.”

The university’s research team reached out to Wurli recently, Dr Fitzpatrick said, to ensure the Indigenous population is included in the study. 

“Given the barriers of numeracy and literacy some Indigenous people face, the lack of information and knowledge about PFAS is similar to non-Indigenous people.”

“Everybody has been left out of the conversation.”

ANU Study Coordinator and doctor, Katherine Todd said the research team is concerned some of the Indigenous population has not been included in the voluntary blood testing. 

The team said they will be making an effort to have focus groups in outlying communities, as part of their epidemiological study. 

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