Ngalkanbuy health service at Galiwin’ku

Galiwin’ku is a large Yolngu community of around 2500 people, situated on Elcho Island. Originally established as a mission, its population has grown significantly in recent decades and it now faces major infrastructure constraints (particularly housing) which impact on health status. The health service – Ngalkanbuy – was managed by the local council until 2008 when Miwatj took over its management and today all staff at Ngalkanbuy are employed by Miwatj. Service provision has increased significantly since 2008, as Ngalkanbuy has been able to access Commonwealth Government funding through Miwatj. Nevertheless, the large size of the community and the complexity of health issues it faces continue to provide major challenges. Ngalkanbuy provides a 24/7 service, and is characterized by the prominent role of local Yolngu in its staffing profile. A new clinic is being built, to complement the existing old structure.

Ngalkanbuy Health Clinic Staff

Ngalkanbuy Health Clinic Staff

At Galiwin’ku, the health centre is divided into different program areas and each program engages in acute and preventive care. The pediatric program runs a busy acute clinic, an immunization program, cares for children with chronic health conditions and runs specialist pediatric outreach clinics. A valuable development has been the creation of a school nurse position in collaboration with the Department of Education. The school nurse is able to provide acute care to school children in addition to ensuring every child attending school has a complete child health check and implements immunization programs. Another important aspect of the pediatric program is the ‘Healthy Baby, Healthy Community’ project which has come about through a partnership with Australian Red Cross. This aims to tackle nutritional issues such as ‘failure to thrive’ and anemia in 0 to 5 year-old children.

The Chronic Health Conditions team at Galiwin’ku divides its time between outreach work in the community and clinic appointments. They coordinate and run cardiology, respiratory, endocrinology, liver and physician specialist outreach clinics throughout the year. They work collaboratively with the resident GP to develop comprehensive care plans for clients suffering from chronic health conditions so as to provide optimal care. Each month the team spends two days out in the community, going from house to house administering needles for those suffering from rheumatic heart disease. They are involved in the screening and treatment of hepatitis B clients and are involved in a project that is developing hepatitis B educational DVDs in the local language. This team is also involved in palliative care.

The women’s program provides antenatal and postnatal care and education to the women at Galiwin’ku. It also provides relevant services for all other women’s health issues. It incorporates western and traditional health practices. The ‘Strong Women’ facilitate monthly smoking ceremonies for new babies and mothers – an important practice in Aboriginal culture.

Ngalkanbuy health centre at Galiwin’ku derives its name from it’s location: the area near the nest of the sea eagle, or ngalkan in Djambarrpuyngu language

Ngalkanbuy health centre at Galiwin’ku derives its name from it’s location: the area near the nest of the sea eagle, or ngalkan in Djambarrpuyngu language

The adult ‘top clinic’ program runs an acute care service for adults during the day and also a medical emergency service during the daytime. This program also runs adult immunization programs and sexually-transmitted illness treatment programs. The team works collaboratively with medical staff to complete adult health checks and complete medical recalls.

The Healthy Minds team at Galiwin’ku runs a strong mental health program, often dealing with difficult situations. This is a busy area with monthly and fortnightly injections for some clients and supervised daily administration of oral medication for others. This team works collaboratively with families to provide excellent care to individuals suffering from mental illness. A lot of their work is done out in the community (rather than in the clinic) and they respond to acute situations as well as caring for those with chronic mental health conditions. They not only work during the day but also respond to emergencies overnight.

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