Northern Territory – April 2017

A message from the Northern Territory Committee Chair

Prevention is better than cure... 
SUGAR - Are we poisoning our patients?

In the Northern Territory we care for patients at particularly high risk of diabetes mellitis and cardiovascular disease (CVS disease). As healthcare providers we have been aware for a while that high dietary intake of refined sugars causes diabetes and accelerated progression to CVS disease. Children are most susceptible to the harmful effects of sugar. 

Despite this knowledge we continue to offer soft drinks and high sugar containing food groups at our hospitals and health care facilities. There have been improvements in recent years to reduce the sale of these products but not enough. The RACP NT Committee aims to work with the NT Department of Health to continue to limit the sales of foods with high sugar contact and optimally eradicate the sale of soft drink from health care facilities in the NT. 

NT Health professionals should be leading by example both within the NT and to other states and territories, by promoting healthy food choices more intensely within our health facilities across the NT.

Extreme measures need to be implemented to eliminate unhealthy food and beverage choices which are contributing so significantly to our obesity, diabetes mellitis and CVS disease related morbidity and mortality in the NT.

Important work has been achieved by the College regarding physician wellness and I would like to bring your attention to the number of College resources available to address the health of physicians. The RACP support helpline via Converge International has been developed to provide members with access to confidential counselling, coaching and support for workplace and personal issues, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are a number of other support services for health professionals available.

The Training Support Unit coordinates support for trainees who are experiencing training difficulties and assists supervisors of these trainees. For any queries or concerns please contact TrainingSupport@racp.edu.au to speak to staff in this area. 

The Northern Territory Committee is committed to supporting our physicians in their training journey and beyond. I urge all members to use these services and share this with your colleagues and trainees. 

The RACP eLearning library offers a wealth of free online educational resources for Fellows and trainees. eLeaning courses cover a range of topics including Communication, Leadership and Management, Supervision and Research. Completing RACP eLearning modules is also an activity eligible for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits in MyCPD.

Dr Rob Tait
Chair, NT Committee

Katherine Region General Medicine Outreach

The Katherine region is developing unique and comprehensive outreach services to the entire region of over 350 thousand square kilometres. With two physicians now based permanently at Katherine Hospital, the small team has engaged with remote stakeholders including remote clinicians, Aboriginal Health Services, and patients, to develop a model that meets community needs and does so in a cost effective way. 

In the Katherine region, there are very high burdens of complex disease. Patient travel is complex and very expensive, and many patients are reluctant to travel to larger centres for specialist input. Compounding this is the complex language and cultural needs of Indigenous people. By providing a general physician service to remote clinics with small populations, culturally appropriate decisions around ongoing care are much more easily achieved – other family members can be present at the time of the consult and can not only assist with communication but are also often vital participants in culturally appropriate decision-making processes.

The need for continuity of care is also particularly important, and at the core of this new service will be the ongoing relationships between patients, remote clinicians and the visiting specialist. 

The Katherine General Medicine Outreach Service will also be utilising Rapid Access Telehealth as a means of providing input into clinical care to the remote regions. Scenarios such as palliative care ‘on country’ and exacerbations of underlying chronic conditions can often be managed in the remote community with input of a clinician who knows the patient and understands their values, to support the remote nurses to provide care within community when this is an option.

There is often a perception that remote medicine is far removed from the excitement and capacity of larger centres. In Katherine, the challenges of remote health are providing excellent opportunities for innovation that can affect real change to those who need and deserve it most of all.

Dr Simon Quilty
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