Northern Territory — April 2018

A message from the Northern Territory (NT) Committee Chair

It was the first eBulletin of last year where I wrote a piece titled Prevention is better than cure... SUGAR - Are we poisoning our patients?, which highlighted that we continue to offer soft drinks and high sugar containing food groups at our hospitals and health care facilities despite knowing the health risks to our patients. Twelve months on and we are only just starting to action change – despite extensive lobbying by dedicated health professionals. I am pleased to say that the Medical Advisory Committee at the Royal Darwin Hospital has endorsed the removal of all sugary sweetened drinks from hospital cafeterias and vending machines and has sought the approval of the Executive Team to implement a framework to make healthy choice the easy choice. It is just one step but hopefully this change will result in others following throughout the rest of the NT.

I am also delighted to announce details regarding the 2018 NT Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) in Darwin on Saturday, 27 October 2018. Following an outstanding ASM in Alice Springs last year, this year the focus will be on Vulnerable Populations. We have attracted leaders from around the regions to speak about those most at risk including children, refugees, women, incarcerated youth and the homeless. This year the ASM aligns with Rural Medicines Australia conference (RMA18), providing physicians even more reason to be in Darwin in late October. Registrations will be opening soon at www.ntasm.com.au. Make sure you save the date in your calendars now.

Another exciting development is the formation of a new NT Trainees’ Committee. Adult Medicine and Paediatric Trainee representatives from across the Territory meet regularly to inform and advocate on matters relating to their trainee journey. You can now download contact details for members of the NT Trainees' Committee. If you would like more information on how to become involved, please contact a trainee committee member or email RACPNT@racp.edu.au.

It is election time once again and I would like to acknowledge the four committee members who are outgoing at the end of this current term. Dr William Majoni (Deputy Chair and CPAC representative), Professor Peter Morris (Paediatric representative), Dr Liz Moore and Dr Rosalie Shultz have served on the NT Regional Committee for six years and made valuable contributions. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you all. On behalf of the rest of the committee, thank you for your expertise, passion and commitment. We wish you all the very best in future endeavours.

I would also like to encourage existing members to reapply for positions on the committee and I invite any Fellows interested in joining to submit an application.

Lastly, we all recognise what a challenging time th​e last few weeks have been not only for the trainees who originally sat the ​Written ​Exam on 19 February, but also for the broader trainee community.  Immediate support was offered by the NT Trainees’ Committee who reached out to trainees, as did supervisors and DPE’s. We are committed to ensuring a safe, nurturing and caring environment for our trainees and encourage anyone who may experience difficulty at any point in the trainee journey to seek assistance. There are a number of options including contacting members of the Trainees’ Committee, as well as Doctors Health NT and the RACP Converge Program on 1300 687 327.

Dr Rob Tait
Northern Territory Committee Chair

Save the date — 2018 NT Annual Scientific Meeting NT ASM

Dr Geordan Shannon

This year’s NT Annual Scientific Meeting is shaping up to be the best yet. The Vulnerable Populations theme has attracted inspiring guest speakers, including Dr Geordan Shannon (pictured, right). Recently recognised for her contribution to the field of global indigenous and rural health, Dr Shannon was awarded Young Australian of the Year by the Australia Day Foundation in the United Kingdom. 

A Research Fellow working within University College London’s Centres for Gender and Global Health and Global Health Economics, Dr Shannon's recent projects include cervical cancer screening and domestic violence prevention in the Peruvian Amazon. She has also researched medical work in Australian bush hospitals and address​ed complex social issues amongst homeless Indigenous Australians.  Dr Shannon is also co-founder of Global Health Disrupted, an organisation that brings together arts and academia for global health.  For more information on Dr Geordan Shannon go to the ​speaker tab at www.ntasm.com.au

Northern Territory paediatrician honoured

Professors Alan Cass and Peter Morris

Long-term Northern Territory paediatrician Professor Peter Morris (pictured right, with Professor Alan Cass on left) has been awarded the prestigious Menzies Medallion for his significant contribution to improving child health in the Northern Territory through paediatric health service delivery and research.

Learn more about Professor Morris’s extensive efforts to improve child health by visiting the Menzies School of Health Research website.

Top ​End Basic Training orientation NT Basic training orientation

More than 20 new trainees enjoyed learning about the RACP and meeting other Basic Trainees at an orientation event at the Menzies School of Health in Darwin on Wednesday, 14 February 2018.   

Chair of the RACP NT Committee Dr Robert Tait, along with Directors of Physician Education Dr Emma Spencer (Adult Medicine) and Professor Peter Morris (Paediatrics), addressed the trainees.

NT Trainees’ Committee Members Dr Nick Fancourt and Dr Pyi Naing were joined by fellow Advanced Trainee Dr Mohd Hash at the event. They provided the audience with information about training approches, hospital based learning and what to expect during Basic Training.

Trainees also took home an extensive list of learning resources and enjoyed networking over refreshments.

Dr Roslie Schultz writes about the Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracking

Fracking is a controversial mining process, involving high pressure pumping of large volumes of water with additives into underground oil or gas deposits to stimulate their flow back. An inquiry into fracking in NT commenced in January 2017 and there has been a moratorium on fracking since then. We await the final report of the Inquiry.

The Inquiry has demonstrated commitment to consultation and community participation, interdisciplinary science and intercultural collaboration. Submissions have been accepted in many forms. The Inquiry Draft Final Report is available online in English and 10 Aboriginal languages, in recognition that Aboriginal people are likely to bear much of the cost of fracking.

Health impacts of fracking described in the report include water quality and quantity, air pollution, road traffic accidents, socio-economic changes, social cohesiveness, mental health and wellbeing. The report concludes that fracking may contribute to respiratory, neurological, cardiovascular and skin disease, birth defects, psychological and gastrointestinal syndromes, and cancer. Report chapters on Aboriginal people, and social and economic impacts note effects on health and conclude that all of these could be regulated and managed.

Climate change is the major public health threat of our generation but is overlooked in the Report’s considerations of health. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning of fracked gas are assumed inevitable. Emerging health threats from climate change in NT include:

  • infrastructure failure (almost all our supplies are transported by road or rail routes that are regularly damaged by floodwater)
  • reduced work capacity due to heat
  • heat related deaths (predicted to increase 50-fold by 2050)
  • mosquito borne illness.

Australia has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. However, gas developments in NT, like the much-publicised Adani coal project in the Galilee Basin, will make it near impossible for these to be met. Some of Australia’s most high-profile physicians including Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, Distinguished Research Professor and Aboriginal health advocate Fiona Stanley, Emeritus Professor Mark L Wahlquist and Associate Professor Tilman Ruff have publicly expressed alarm at the prospect of fracking in NT. Here on the ground we await the Final Fracking Inquiry Report and its impacts on health and wellbeing in NT, nationally and globally.

fracking opposition

Pictured above: near unanimous opposition to fracking at a community consultation in Alice Springs. Photo shown with permission from Alice Springs News Online.

Frack Free alliance Central Australian Frack Free Alliance surveyed the Eastside community in Alice Springs and confirmed that 89 per cent of residents oppose fracking. The Inquiry was not required to survey the community.

Upcoming Supervisor Professional Development (SPDP) Workshop

Advanced Trainees and Supervisors are invited to attend a SPDP Teaching and Learning in Healthcare Settings workshop on Monday, 30 April in Darwin.

Visit the RACP event page for full details.

Health and wellbeing resources

The RACP recognise​s the importance of supporting the health and wellbeing of medical practitioners. Maintaining healthy mental, physical and social wellbeing ensures specialists can practice effectively throughout their careers, including during training.

In collaboration with partners across the sector, the RACP developed a range of resources to support the health and wellbeing of ​physicians. You can view the health and wellbeing resources on the RACP website

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