ACT News

Aboriginal health centre struggling for funds

Canberra's only Aboriginal health centre has released new figures ahead of Tuesday's budget, showing an increase in the number of people turning to them for help.

The service has been worried it will miss out on funding under the Commonwealth's allocations and has not been officially told whether it will be able to continue past June 30, as reported in the Sunday Canberra Times, April 20.

Winnunga Nimmityjah CEO Julie Tongs.
Winnunga Nimmityjah CEO Julie Tongs. Photo: Melissa Adams

Chief executive of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service Julie Tongs has released new data showing there was a seven per cent increase in health visits last financial year, compared to the previous 12 months.

It was a record for the centre, which meant administering 39,613 instances of health care - from pre-natal visits for pregnant women, to dental and doctor appointments.

Ms Tongs said the service desperately needed to expand its premises to continue to cater for all of its clients.

“Our accommodation crisis continues to get worse,'' she said.

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"It is acute. We still have three midwives sharing one office and the same number of nurses also having to share the one room.

"Repeated efforts to secure funding, from both the ACT and Commonwealth have fallen on deaf ears.”

Treasury has previously said "everything is under review" and has refused to release any information until the budget is handed down.

Ms Tongs said she had concerns the centre would not be given the funding it needed to continue its service.

"We have between 80 and 129 people per day come into our walk-in clinic to see us,'' she said.

"That puts huge pressure on our already under-resourced services. We know that if we were not here our people would be dying on the street.

"People will end up at the emergency department and if they are chaotic the police are likely to be called. Things will start to spiral out of control and we are here on the ground managing and supporting the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in our community.''

Mrs Tongs said if Winnunga could secure funding for an extension to the centre it would try to expand its dental service.

“There is sufficient demand to warrant a second dentist,” Ms Tongs said.

“In 2012-13 Winnunga also provided a record 2919 dental services.''

More than half of the visits were for dental fillings or check ups or prophylaxis services and 16 per cent were for dental extractions.

Ms Tongs said the centre had about 4000 clients, with most living in the ACT and about 20 per cent who were from parts of NSW.

“Overwhelmingly the majority of our clients are young people,'' she said. "In fact well over 50 per cent of our clients are under 30 years of age.''