Two years ago, the Australian Government released the final report of the Central Australia Renal Study. The Study forecast an alarming increase in the number of Aboriginal people on dialysis in Central Australia.1
The Study called for Central Australian renal services to be structured around a hub-and-spoke model with:
- Alice Springs as the main hub, and
- remote Aboriginal communities as the spokes.
The ‘fundamental premise’ of the hub and spoke model was ‘a structured and sustainable transition’ from the provision of treatment in urban facilities in places like Alice Springs, towards an ‘expansion of community based care.’2
Funding offer and Ministerial correspondence
The Australian Government is currently offering to meet the cost of establishing a ‘spoke’ (i.e. community based care) in Pukatja (Ernabella) on the APY Lands. The offer includes money ‘for a renal nurse and visitor accommodation.’3
On 3 June 2013, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health (Hon Warren Snowdon MP) wrote to the South Australian Minister for Health and Ageing (Hon Jack Snelling MP) about this funding offer.4 Minister Snowdon’s letter asked Minister Snelling to consider participating in a workshop with key interest groups.
On 27 June 2013, Minister Snelling advised Minister Snowdon that he ‘would not be willing’ to participate in such a workshop ‘at this stage’, suggesting instead that State and Federal bureaucrats could meet to ‘discuss this initiative and determine what the impact would be for SA Health.’5
The NPY Women’s Council is the peak service and advocacy organisation for Anangu women across Central Australia.
For a number of years, the Council has advocated strongly for the rights and needs of Anangu dialysis patients and their families.6
On 18 July 2013, the NPY Women’s Council wrote to Minister Snelling to express its concern that his government was ‘voicing a lack of support for the establishment of a service’ in Pukatja ‘without relevant advice and data.’
The Council drew the Minister’s attention to the successful work of the Western Desert Dialysis7, an Aboriginal organisation that has been delivering renal dialysis services to Central Australian remote Aboriginal communities for nine years:
Western Desert Dialysis is the only organisation working in Central Australia who can provide high level advice to Governments and communities to navigate and resolve issues associated with establishing local renal dialysis services in a remote location. I understand that a SA Health Minister has never sought a briefing from Western Desert Dialysis to assess the cost benefits of delivering a renal dialysis service in Pukatja …
The Directors of NPY Women’s Council are concerned that the SA Government is voicing a lack of support for the establishment of a service without relevant advice and data from Western Desert Dialysis …
On behalf of the Directors and members of NPY Women’s Council, I … urge you to consider meeting with Western Desert Dialysis to discuss the cost benefit of delivering a renal service in Pukatja.8
The Federal Government’s offer to fund the establishment of a dialysis facility in Pukatja was also discussed at the mid-year gathering of the Uniting Church’s Northern Synod.
In the run-up to that meeting, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health (Hon Warren Snowdon MP) had advised the Synod’s Moderator (Stuart McMillan) that while funding for the proposed facility was still available, the South Australian Government was not prepared to work with the Federal Government to establish community-based dialysis on the APY Lands.
The Northern Synod subsequently resolved to ask the South Australia Government to establish a permanent dialysis service in Pukatja or another APY community to enable Anangu patients to receive the medical treatment they need on country and be with their families.
On 15 July 2013, the Moderator told the Paper Tracker Radio Show that a Uniting Church delegation would be travelling to Adelaide to lobby the SA Premier (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) and Health Minister (Hon Jack Snelling MP) about this issue.
We believe access to a permanent dialysis facility on the APY Lands will improve the health and wellbeing of Anangu with end stage kidney disease.
The Paper Tracker stands with Anangu dialysis patients and their families in calling for the establishment of such a facility as soon as possible. We note that these types of facilities are already operational in a number of remote Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory.
- The study predicted that the number of dialysis patients would rise from around 200 in 2009 to between 312 and 479 patients by 2020 (George Institute for Global Health. June 2011, Central Australia Renal Study – Final Report, published by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, page 3).
- George Institute for Global Health. June 2011, Central Australia Renal Study – Final Report, published by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, page 5.
- Palmer, S (Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health). 7 June 2013. Transcript of evidence given at Estimates hearing, Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Senate, Parliament of Australia, page 38.
- See: Snelling, J. 27 June 2013. Letter to W. Snowdon. Also: Palmer, S (Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health). 7 June 2013. Transcript of evidence given at Estimates hearing, Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Senate, Parliament of Australia, page 38.
- Snelling, J. 27 June 2013. Letter to W. Snowdon. Minister Snelling subsequently told The Australian newspaper that his government ‘had not accepted the federal funding offer “because they are not prepared to fund the ongoing operation of it”.’ (Owen, M. 1 July 2013. “Labor’s holdout on APY dialysis,” The Australian, page 2.
- This has included convening a dialysis forum in Umuwa in September 2010 at which about 20 Anangu women spoke publicly about kidney disease and its impact on the wellbeing of their families and communities. See also: NPY Women’s Council. 2010. “Advocacy: End Stage Renal Disease”, Fact Sheet No. 17. Available at: http://www.npywc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/17-Advocacy-End-Stage-Renal-Disease.pdf.
- 7 The full business name of Western Desert Dialysis is ‘Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation’. The organisation is also widely known for running The Purple House in Alice Springs and The Purple Truck (a mobile dialysis facility).
- 8 Mason, A (NPY Women’s Council). 18 July 2013. Letter to J. Snelling, SA Minister for Health and Ageing.