Car park care: First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing executive Dr Peter Walsh at work in the car park of the Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association, Pound Road, Hastings.
HUNDREDS of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders and their families have being vaccinated against the flu and tested for COVID-19 at car park clinics in Frankston and Hastings.
Those attending the clinics are met by medical staff wearing masks and, in some cases, gowns bought online from food industry suppliers.
The clinics are run by First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing, whose CEO Karinda Taylor says the peninsula needs a health service controlled by the Aboriginal community “if we are ever going to make headway on closing the health gap in the area”.
Thomastown-based First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing was earlier this year hoping to obtain federal government finance for a comprehensive health service in Frankston and on the peninsula but the “funding round” was abandoned because of the COVID-19 emergency (“Aboriginal health ‘misses out’ on health ‘boost’’’ The News 10/12/19).
Health Minister Greg Hunt, whose Flinders electorate covers the peninsula, said the funding round was delayed after “consultations with key stakeholders” to allow them to “focus on preparations for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Ms Taylor said she was “not sure who the key stakeholders are that Hunt’s office has spoken to, however, as the only Aboriginal community-controlled health service offering primary and mental health service across Frankston and the peninsula catchment I can assure you we were not consulted”.
Ms Taylor said the annual $778,819 that Mr Hunt said would be maintained “has been the same amount for 10 years”.
“Our service massively expanded 18 months ago, from chronic disease co-ordination and transportation to delivering complex primary health services to address the significant unmet health needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across greater Melbourne,” she said.
“This is what the community asked for. This is an example of self-determination at a local level. However, the government appears to determine health need, not the community.”
“Let’s be really clear, the existing funding that Mr Hunt is referring to covers around one third of our organisation’s total expenditure for the Thomastown clinic alone, and he is aware of this.
“He is also well aware the Frankston clinic remains completely unfunded.”
Ms Taylor said the Medicare benefits schedule – which Mr Hunt said was available to First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing – was not “designed to fully support Aboriginal health services”.
“MBS suits five-minute medicine which is demonstrated by super clinics on every second corner offering care than will never see our nation close the gap in Aboriginal health,” she said.
“Mr Hunt uses the term ‘as per usual practice’. We are in the middle of a pandemic and this is anything but usual.