A healthcare journey in the Torres Strait Islands

14 Jun 2016
Member Story

AIDA member and Aboriginal medical student, Ms Anne-Maree Nielsen received the MDA National and Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDDA) Rural Health Bursary for 2015. She chose Thursday Island as the location for her clinical placement, firstly because she wanted to learn more about Torres Strait Islander culture, and secondly to further consolidate her medical knowledge and skills in an environment that specialises in remote health.

With a population of approximately 2,600 people Thursday Island is the commercial centre of the Torres Strait Islands. Thursday Island Hospital hosts 26 general/medical beds and six maternity beds, and is serviced by a fusion of local and transient healthcare, administrative and domestic personnel. Medical staff are rostered between the general ward, accident and emergency, obstetrics, health services on the outer islands and the Community Wellness Centre. Therefore a variety of remote healthcare experience can be attained and fortified from such a unique clinical placement.

Two scenic flights and a breezy ferry trip brought Anne-Maree to Thursday Island. Greeted by gorgeous weather and jewel like clarity of the surrounding waters, her first impression was one of awe and this impression did not diminish during her six week stay. “The beauty of the environment was only enhanced by my clinical experiences and the hospitality, and friendliness of the local people,” said Anne-Maree. “Thursday Island is primarily an Indigenous population and visits between islands via dinghy is common place, as is spearfishing along the shore. I stayed at the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hostel which gave me another insight into the healthcare journey of many patients and the cultural associations with health, and wellbeing.”

Anne-Maree wanted her clinical experience to incorporate aspects of both the acute care service at Thursday Island Hospital, with the island grass roots community based health services and the outer-lying communities. With the assistance of the supportive medical team and generous allied health, and Indigenous health workers, this goal was very much achieved.

“I was able to spend time on the hospital ward and in the Emergency Department of Thursday Island Hospital, learning from General Practitioner Specialists. I also accompanied staff on clinic visits to Coconut Island, Bamaga, Horne Island and Moa Island. Experiencing the amalgamation of acute re-active healthcare, delivered primarily by General Practitioners in the hospital environment, with community delivered preventative healthcare initiatives has reinforced my desire to practice in a rural/remote location in the future,” said Anne-Maree.

“The blend of remote acute care and preventative community health in this culturally rich environment made this Thursday Island elective an enjoyable and enlightening clinical experience. I came away from this journey with a renewed interest in the practice of preventative community health in areas of remote locales and having this opportunity to learn more about life on the Torres Strait was icing on the cake,” she said.

AIDA and Anne-Maree thank RDAA’s Major MDO Sponsor, MDA National, for their generous support of the MDA National and RDAA Rural Health Bursary.

14 Jun 2016