A system to ensure better communication between hospital and patient is improving the journey for remote Aboriginal patients coming to Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) for cardiac procedures, and is currently informing national policy.
The system, developed at FMC by Monica Lawrence as part of her Masters of Nursing project between 2005 and 2007, is currently the only culturally-specific consent program for Aboriginal patients in Australia and has become standard practice in the ward at Flinders.
The project stemmed from observations made by Ms Lawrence, who is now Regional Manager of Clinical Services Development in Aboriginal health in Southern Adelaide, while working as a nurse in the cardio-thoracic ward at FMC.
“Aboriginal patients living in remote Northern Territory and South Australian communities travel over vast cultural or geographic distances to come to Flinders for cardiac surgery,” Ms Lawrence said.
“When I first started this project, during a six month period 21 out of 48 Aboriginal people coming for heart surgery at Flinders did not show up for the operation.
“Other patients were inadequately prepared physically or psychologically and the surgery could not be undertaken.”
Based on recommendations by Ms Lawrence, a Remote Area Liaison Nurse position was established at FMC to ensure Aboriginal patients are better informed about the treatment they will be having before they arrive at Flinders for surgery.
Daphne Perry is currently appointed in the role and ensures the patient is psychologically and physically prepared for surgery before they arrive in Adelaide; that appropriate carers accompany the patient to Adelaide; and that patient care is continued once they return home.
“Since these changes have been made and patients have been properly briefed in their own language, all of the patients have presented for surgery,” Ms Lawrence said.
“While the figures may not always remain at 100 per cent it is certainly a significant improvement.”
The findings of Ms Lawrence’s research project are now informing a senate enquiry and she is now working with Australian Health Care and Hospital Association to develop a national policy which will translate to other speciality areas such as to sight and hearing health in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands.