New one-stop-shop for health open at Mildura

Mon, 04 Nov 2013 12:24:00 +0000

A new one-stop-shop for Aboriginal Health in Mildura is being described as the biggest step forward in Aboriginal health in north west Victoria in a generation.

The new four million dollar Mallee District Aboriginal Services’ Community Health Centre in Orange Avenue Mildura opened with a community celebration day last week.

The day includedtours of the new facility, as well as performances by Kutcha Edwards, traditional dance and didgeridoo, a smoking ceremony, games and activities and a community arts project.

The new complex in Orange Avenue is the first purpose-built health service in the 30-year history of MDAS and has been funded by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA).

It doubles the size of the existing health centre and is designed to relieve pressure on the growing staff and client base.

MDAS chief executive Rudolph Kirby said it was an exciting day for the local Aboriginal community and a critical step forward in Aboriginal Health.

“The life span of Koori people is still about 10 years shorter than the non-indigenous community, and it is that gap we have to keep focussed on closing,” Mr Kirby said.

“We can’t do that without health services that are efficient and effective, but importantly, are also culturally appropriate and comfortable for Aboriginal people,” he said.

“This new facility ticks all the boxes.  It is a state-of-the-art medical facility that is entirely professional, but has a feel that Koori people are comfortable with.

“In addition we are adding new services and programs all the time and a professional atmosphere in a bright new facility will only help us recruit the professional staff to provide those services.”

MDAS delivers more than 50 programs and employs more than 150 staff, 52% of whom are Aboriginal people.  The staff includes Aboriginal health workers and nurses, a midwife and maternal health workers as well as professionals in mental health, drug and alcohol support, counsellors and family services staff. 

MDAS’s General Manager of Health and Family Services Nahtanha Davey said the new one-stop-shop provides an opportunity to make real progress in Aboriginal healthcare in the region.

She said an important aspect of improving health outcomes was in managing chronic conditions and encouraging people into preventative health-care and self-management.

“Problems like kidney failure, diabetes, asthma and bronchitis are much more prevalent among Aboriginal people,” Ms Davey said.

“The three major risk factors for indigenous health are still obesity, tobacco and alcohol.  In our catchment alone, we estimate the healthcare costs resulting from those factors to be about three million dollars a year.

“The prevalence of these problems is still continuing to grow, so we obviously need to keep the focus on these areas in the interests of our whole community.

“Culturally-appropriate, targeted healthcare and prevention programs make the most difference in Aboriginal health outcomes,” Ms Davey said.

Rising demand for health centre services and the expansion in programs have forced the corporation to rent extra space in another nearby building, resulting in the separation of management from the operational aspects of the organisation.  The completion of the new building will allow all staff to be located back onto one site. 

SJ Weir has managed the project and Mr Kirby said it had been delivered on time and on budget.  He said the company used local contractors and employed several indigenous workers on the project.