ACT News

Aboriginal health centre Winnunga Nimmityjah offers new services as demand grows

Canberra's only Aboriginal health centre has introduced new services, including a comprehensive child health clinic and triage system, to try and keep up with demand. 

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service has launched a child health e-clinic and triage system where all patients are  assessed by a nurse before seeing a doctor. 

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service chief executive Julie Tongs says the centre is struggling with the complex ...
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service chief executive Julie Tongs says the centre is struggling with the complex health needs of patients. Photo: Melissa Adams

Chief executive Julie Tongs said Winnunga was an extremely busy service, with 66 staff and five full-time GPs seeing about 130 patients a day.

Ms Tongs said Winnunga would like more resources to work with families on preventive measures, which would require more funding from all levels of government. 

"At the moment, we are struggling with the complex health needs of our patients and it would be great if we could have healthy, happy children born into healthy, happy families and this isn't always the outcome," she said. 

She said most patients had multiple chronic diseases which were complex and needed to be managed on a regular basis. 

"We are constantly looking at ways to keep up with the demands on our services and due to a space issue, we have had to do a mini restructure of our internal space to assist us to continue to provide comprehensive primary healthcare to our 4000-plus patients," she said.

"We have had to move administration staff out of offices to create more clinic space so we can better manage the client load."

Ms Tongs said the new triage system would help reduce waiting times as clinical activity was divided between doctors and nurses, and would enable appropriate triaging of people by identifying patients who may need to see a doctor sooner. 

Patients will undergo a basic health check and nurses will ascertain their reason for visiting before referring them to the correct treatment area. 

She said patients would be able to have basic or comprehensive assessments before seeing the doctor, who would then use the clinical information to support their consultation and review health checks and care plans. 

"[The triage system will also] manage chaotic, mental health, drug-dependent clients better by having nursing assessments that target high needs clients for health checks and care plans; a group that often misses [out] on basic health assessments due to the nature of their conditions," she said.

Winnunga has also created a second reception area to address space issues. 

The comprehensive child health e-clinic offers child development and milestone assessments, annual health checks, hearing assessments, age-related pre-immunisation check and management and follow-up of childhood illnesses. 

"We are sure this will deliver a more integrated and comprehensive health service to children as it will also combine our established mums and bubs group with the new comprehensive child clinic," Ms Tongs said.

Ms Tongs said the e-clinic ensured all patients had an e-health record which was accessible to several health institutions such as Canberra Hospital.

"It is a way of information sharing that enables a more shared care approach to managing clients," she said.