Anna Elliston – Medical Student
Thanks to Rustica, I was able to fund a two-week placement at the Kalgoorlie Hospital in WA in September 2015. The placement was part of my core paediatrics rotation at UTAS and I spent the time attached to the paeds team in Kalgoorlie.
I spent the mornings on ward rounds with the team. The Kalgoorlie paeds ward is small and at the time I was there, it was commonly full of kids with bronchiolitis or “pre-school wheeze”. I learnt about the management of this and many other common paediatric conditions. ADHD, FASD and autism were another big focus of my learning. The paeds team would also cover the nursery and a lot of time was spent with neonates. I also participated in a neonatal resus. I was involved in outpatient clinics at the hospital and at communities hundreds of kilometres away. I also got to sit in on many classes that were being held with the Rural Clinical School med students from UWA – including classes on obstetrics, GP and urology.
Kalgoorlie is very different to Hobart in that the hospital receives many patients from outlying Indigenous communities, often by the RFDS. Sadly, there is a lot of disadvantage in and around Kalgoorlie and many social problems worsen the circumstances of the children I met. Homelessness is a particular issue, with a few nearby Indigenous communities being recently closed. It is angering that there is such wealth disparity in Kalgoorlie as well: the mining Superpit is said to make a profit of over $500,000 per day, but many children have no permanent home and certainly no money is given to the traditional owners of the land. This shocking disadvantage is one huge determinant of poorer health outcomes in Indigenous people around Kalgoorlie.
The placement was a wonderful cultural experience too. I was staying with an Indigenous family and I was blown away by their hospitality. I was immediately welcomed into the family – I went to church with them, I spent time at the arts and cultural centre with them, I went “bush” with them (and found and ate a witchetty grub!) and I was even privileged enough to be invited to attend a funeral. Working in healthcare, it is easy to stereotype people based on the generalisations made by public health statistics. This immersion truly changed my perception of the joys and challenges faced by some of the Indigenous people in Kalgoorlie and I am very appreciative of this. I think this experience will flavour my perspective for a long time to come.