Aboriginal people living in regional and remote areas face many health challenges, including their living conditions, isolation, cultural barriers, and inappropriate care.
Next Health provide vital Independent Medical Examinations (IME’s) to indigenous communities and have been servicing WA’s remote regions since 2015. It’s not easy work, but every visit the team undertake can make a difference to someone’s quality of life.
With the assistance of an Indigenous plaintiff lawyer, the team conduct orthopaedic assessments on Indigenous people injured in motor vehicle accidents. Dr Michael Wren is an orthopaedic surgeon with subspecialties in arthroscopic joint surgery. He is accompanied during the IME’s by Zelica Palamara, Next Health General Manager and Natalie Nicholas, Next Health Client Relationship Officer.
There are many challenges for the team in these isolated communities. It can be difficult locating patients and ensuring they stay in the area long enough for adequate care. There are also obvious language and communication problems and logistics to overcome, such as driving long distances for x-rays, returning patients back home, providing ongoing treatment and progressing claims.
Zelica Palamara knows these challenges all too well, regularly visiting the Kimberley and Goldfields regions of WA, but says the effort is rewarded in so many ways.
“In September we visited the Kimberley Region. We flew into Kununurra from Perth, drove to Warmun, then drove to Halls Creek, we then drove to Fitzroy Crossing, then Derby and finally on to Broome, where we then caught a flight back to Perth. This trip involved 6 hours of flying and 12 hours of driving. We do this so that our indigenous patients can be assessed, treated, and recover from their injuries as best as possible. Sitting down with them, I am always amazed by how open and willing they are to tell their story. I guess they can sense the trust and it’s important to listen,” says Zelica.
Visiting these aboriginal communities is also inspiring. The scenery is stunning, and the enormity of the land can take your breath away. For Zelica and Natalie, it’s also an opportunity to take in the aboriginal culture and unique heritage. Natalie has loved being part of the team and experiencing this culture. “Interacting with the indigenous community is a beautiful experience, they are so welcoming and if you approach them with openness and respect, they will return that. To experience the beauty of Aboriginal culture firsthand is remarkable, and the work we do lets me imagine the difference we are making in their lives”.