I was fortunate enough to be able to organise a placement on Palm Island, QLD, Australia’s largest Indigenous community. My John Flynn placements in the Northern Territory fostered a strong interest in Indigenous health and I am grateful that I was able to have another opportunity to gain further experience in Indigenous health.
One of the most beneficial aspects of my placement was staying with members of the community. One of the local families opened their home to me and it was an incredible privilege to gain a glimpse of what growing up and living in a community like Palm is like. My hosts were also more than happy to talk about the issues faced by Indigenous Australians and I am so thankful to them for their openness.
I spent one week at the Palm Island Children and Family Centre (CFC) which has only been open for 18 months. It operates as a primary health care centre and has an excellent model of primary health care that is needed in Indigenous communities Australia wide. It represents a similar model of care that we have in urban centres, seeing each patient interaction as an opportunity to screen for health or social issues, improve and promote health or prevent illness. I was seeing patients on my own and then presenting patients to one of the GPs who would either confirm or adjust my management plan. It was a valuable learning opportunity and I wish we had a longer GP placement.
My second week was spent at the Joyce Palmer Health Service (JPHS). Until the CFC opened, it was the only health care provider on the island. It operates similarly to other health care services I have witnessed in remote Indigenous communities in that it has primary health care services, a small (2 bed) emergency department and a small number of inpatient beds. All of the doctors were fantastic – they were all so happy to teach me and share interesting patients with me. They were all very supportive of me making the most of my very short time there.
Both JPHS and CFC have said they would be more than happy to have me back on another placement. I only hope I can make this happen sooner rather than later!