Aboriginal volunteers needed to help Close the Gap

Tamworth Hospital is calling for volunteers from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to take part in a new initiative that aims to improve the patient journey through the hospital system.

Tamworth Hospital is one of eight hospitals from across Australia selected to participate in The Lighthouse Project, a project funded by the Heart Foundation that will build on Hunter New England Local Health District’s Close The Gap initiatives to further improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal people.

The innovative national pilot project seeks to improve the care given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with heart attack symptoms and reaffirms Tamworth Health Service’s commitment to Closing the Gap in Aboriginal health disadvantage.

Project Officer Kate Wynne said the project provides an additional avenue for Tamworth Hospital to further Close The Gap in healthcare outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Over the next 12 months the hospital will be looking to improve the care and service we provide to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients,” Mrs Wynne said.

“This includes improving patients’ journeys through the hospital from admission to discharge and ensuring appropriate follow up care is provided within the community. We are also looking to improve the cultural competence of all our staff involved in caring for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

“Tamworth Hospital is working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community groups to identify what the community feels will provide the most benefit,” she said.

Mrs Wynne said the first important initiative of the project would be the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Service Volunteer Service.

In time, the hospital plans to introduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers to the emergency department to support people to receive the care they need. 

“We are working on long-term plans to introduce volunteer representatives from these communities to the emergency department, in an attempt to reduce barriers for patients presenting to the ED with acute coronary symptoms.

“We hope the volunteer service can help us create a more culturally appropriate and supportive environment for the community to decrease the number of patients who come to the emergency department and do not wait for treatment,” Mrs Wynne said.

In 2012-13, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were three times more likely to have a heart attack and nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease compared with non-Indigenous Australians.

An Australia Institute of Health and Welfare report revealed that when compared with other Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hospitalised with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) had:

  • more than twice the rate of death from Coronary Heart Disease
  • a 40% lower rate of being investigated by angiography
  • a 40% lower rate of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)
  • a 20% lower rate of coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

The Lighthouse Hospital Project is funded by the Department of Health and is a partnership between the Heart Foundation and the Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association. ​

Contact Name:  Strategic Relations and Communication
Contact Phone:  4985 5522