The gap in health between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is indeed a chasm, but the waiting room represents the first bricks in bridging it.
Unfortunately, it’s not something most people are mindful of, but the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), along with a number of other leading health groups and medical practitioners, has shone a spotlight on the need for more viable and suitable cultural safety measures in the provision of healthcare to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including the need for culturally appropriate waiting rooms.
Carmen Parter, PHAA Vice-President (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) affirmed PHAA’s support for such an initiative, saying, “All healthcare providers need to consider the cultural dimension of the services they are providing, and embrace culturally safe care, which is determined to be safe by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families. This includes making hospital waiting rooms a welcoming and supportive environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which will help to build trust between them and their healthcare providers, and enhance cultural sensitivity in medical treatment.”
Ms Parter continued, “It is vitally important that these waiting areas are designed and implemented in close consultation with relevant local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.”
“The history of the stolen generations and the role that Australian hospitals held during these events has left a strong effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and in order to overcome this and move toward Reconciliation we need to work together to ensure Australian hospitals are a safe space for all,” Ms Parter said.
Michael Moore, CEO of the PHAA supported Ms Parter’s statements, saying, “Evidence shows that healthcare has the best outcomes when the patient and provider can share knowledge and understanding in a respectful and welcoming environment. We also know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients are at least 1.5 times more likely to leave hospital before receiving treatment compared to non-Indigenous patients.”
“This resembles the gaps in health outcomes which Close the Gap campaigners are working hard to resolve, and a trial on the mid-north coast in NSW showed that culturally appropriate waiting rooms resulted in a 50% reduction in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients leaving before accessing treatment. This really demonstrates the strength of this type of cultural safety initiative in a tangible way,” Mr Moore said.
“We ensure that hospitals are safe environments for children, elderly people, disabled people and other groups with certain needs, it’s now time we ensure that the cultural needs of patients are also taken into careful consideration,” Mr Moore said.