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Remote Aboriginal community connect digitally to metro medical experts

For the first time, patients in Bidyadanga – Western Australia’s largest remote Aboriginal community – have access to medical specialists in the metropolitan area at the touch of a button thanks to a partnership between the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) and the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS).

The partnership, which involves a 12-month trial of connection of the KAMS-run Bidyadanga Health Clinic to the WACHS Command Centre, has already seen specialist emergency care accessed 28 times in the first five months.

Having access to the WACHS Command Centre enables KAMS clinicians to connect with Perth-based medical specialists almost instantly via videoconferencing equipment, assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The 12-month trial is expected to provide a better understanding of the logistics, benefits and costs of delivering digital health services into more remote WA communities.

With medical specialists on high-definition speed dial, local front line clinicians can deliver healthcare when and where it is needed, keeping patients within their communities and closer to family and support.

Located 180 kilometres south of Broome, Bidyadanga is home to a 750-strong population that often swells to over 1,000 with transient visitors.

The WA Health Minister Roger Cook stated that this initiative is all about putting patients first by using technology to help keep people in the country.

The WACHS Command Centre is now working with KAMS to provide the State’s largest remote Aboriginal community with access to metropolitan medical specialists on country and close to friends and family.

This initiative was first raised with me at the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector Conference last year so it is wonderful to see this grow into a pilot which is already seeing fantastic results.

The Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt stated that this new service is an important health initiative for WA’s largest remote community.

It will deliver first-class medical expertise to people living in Bidyadanga and help save lives.

I’m hopeful the trial will give us greater insight into the logistics, benefits and costs of delivering digital health services to more remote communities in the future.

The Kimberley MLA Josie Farrer stated that this service is vital so the people in Bidyadanga can have access to medical specialists without having to leave the community.

It’s crucial that WACHS continues to work closely with organisations like KAMS to provide timely, culturally safe and secure quality health services in our Aboriginal communities.

Helping rural communities through tech

According to an earlier OpenGov Asia article, an online support network is encouraging rural women to put the kettle on or have a splash of wine whilst having a virtual chat to share ideas and experiences in staying connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Victoria’s Minister for Agriculture launched the Virtual Country Cuppas on 12 May 2020 to support rural women in combating feelings of isolation and stress whilst physical distancing.

Coordinated by the Victorian Rural Women’s Network (VRWN), the event is based on the VRWN’s successful face-to-face Country Cuppas that attracted 600 rural women to 32 events across Victoria in October.

This year participants are invited to host a virtual morning or afternoon tea, after-work drinks, or another form of an online catch-up with their favourite community members or group.

While staying at home and limiting physical interaction has been vital to slowing the spread of the virus, it can be difficult for people’s mental health and well being – particularly for those already experiencing mental health conditions or who live in isolated areas.

Virtual Country Cuppas will be held from 23 May to 31 May and is just one of several virtual initiatives that are being developed by the VRWN to upskill and support rural women.

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