TaskForce Update

It’s an unofficial update as official information is hard to come by. Just have a look at the taskforce media centre here.

A few bits and pieces surface via the ABC. This one from yesterday is very interesting. NTERT’s operational head, David Chalmers, made this claim,

He says two-thirds of the children in remote communities have had health checks, and that about 20 per cent of those will need follow up treatment for dental problems.

Well, I can guarantee you that 60% of Indigenous kids in the NT have not had a health check courtesy of the NTERT. The health checks have not even started in most communities in the northern half of the NT, where well over half of the Indigenous population of the NT live. Many won’t see one of the medical teams till November. Checks have started at 2 of the largest communities, Wadeye and Maningrida, but only 150 and 60 children respectively have been seen so far. To give you some idea of what sort of progress this represents, Wadeye’s 0-15 population is 600 according to the Census (which almost everyone thinks is a serious underestimate, it’s probably closer to 800-900). The health checks have been going for just over 2 weeks, with 3 weeks to go. They’ll do well to see 50% of the kids in Wadeye.

But the second part of Chalmers’ statement is where the most significant problem lies. So, 20% of kids need a dentist (I’m stunned it’s so low)? Where is the dentist coming from? The knee-jerk nature of the response is exposed yet again – do medical checks so you can make referrals to services that don’t exist in sufficient quantity to meet the need. It’s particularly ironic that dental services were mentioned. Back at the start of the Howard Government it was public dental services that were slashed in its’ cost cutting exercises.

There has been no effort to expand on-going health services to meet the needs in remote communities, which makes the visiting health teams an expensive exercise in futility. The Federal Government is also starting to have trouble attracting volunteers, which is hardly surprising given the current shortages of medical staff across Australia.

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