Northern Territory – December 2016

A message from the Northern Territory Committee Chair

It is with great pleasure I take the position of Chair of the RACP Northern Territory (NT) Committee. The Territory is a unique environment with very significant health challenges. 

The RACP NT Committee has always played a pivotal role in health advocacy for its members and the patients they care for. 

Our College believes in a holistic approach to health care for all Territorians and I would like to support a focus and emphasis on preventative health care in the NT. 

Our committee will continue to advocate for better care and support of incarcerated adolescents and shall continue to speak out against juvenile detention. 

We have supported raising awareness of suspected harmful lead levels in communities that hunt with traditional lead shot. We have called on the Government to ban lead shot in the hope that this legislation affords the same health protection it affords non-Indigenous Australians. 

Our NT Annual Scientific Meeting was a fantastic event and I was pleased that so many of you were able to attend. The event followed the themes of Access and Patient Centred Care, two areas we will strive to continue to improve for all people living in the NT.

We support training and retaining doctors in the NT. We aspire to continue to strive for excellence in the education and training of our trainees, as well as ongoing professional development of our Fellows within the Northern Territory. 

I would like to wish you a safe and happy festive season and look forward to a productive 2017.

Dr Rob Tait
Chair, NT Committee 

Inaugural RACP visit to Katherine District Hospital

In August RACP staff took the opportunity to visit Katherine District Hospital to meet with Dr Simon Quilty to gain insight into the life of a remote physician. This was the first visit from RACP to the site and provided valuable insight into the area and its needs.

Dr Quilty’s passion for the community and his work is evident. He has increased services to the area, while being cost effective; to the extent that Katherine has attracted a physician from the United Kingdom to join his team.

The team also met Dr Louise Harwood, Director of Medical Services. Discussions focused on two key areas: the services of the area and the value of training the hospital could offer to both Basic and Advanced RACP Trainees. 

The hospital has a well-equipped laboratory where  trainees have the opportunity to view firsthand the tropical and unusual diseases that are often presented in Katherine.

Telehealth is a valued addition to the region. With large distances between dispersed populations, telehealth is a cost effective way to bring patients and physicians together. Telehealth works well with the Aboriginal community as patients can remain in their communities.

Katherine has an extremely high homelessness rate, with many turning to the hospital for refuge and a ‘good feed’. A tour of the township and Warlpiri Transient Camp highlighted the importance of the local clinics and the services they provide. 


Dr Simon Quilty and Dr Pip Tallis at Katherine District Hospital

The Bush Physician by Dr Pip Tallis

There is a saying that you haven’t visited Katherine properly, until you have seen the inside of the Katherine Hospital. 
A day in the life of a medical registrar on the wards in a rural hospital like Katherine can start with reviewing a septic man who walked into triage. Where else does sepsis walk around except in the resilient men and women of the outback. 
Next I convince a patient, a touring hiker allegedly bitten by a snake, to stay for our protocol of ‘24 hour snake observations’.
I make my way through a ward round rich with culture, pathology and different languages. Having mastered the indigenous word for poo – guna , I seem to get by. Ward rounds are partly outside on the veranda, life indoors, even when unwell, is far too unnatural for most of my patients. 
The pathology overwhelms me, requiring magnificent differentials for every patient. Nothing follows the text book and rarities are daily life on the ward. 
Retrievals out bush are exciting but frightening. With no Intensive Care Unit, it’s just me and the patient, waiting for the plane. Similar to the first rain after a ‘build up’ in the NT, the long awaiting arrival of the plane brings a calming relief to a tense situation. 
Being the way we are as doctors, any challenge presented is a challenge accepted. Nothing beats the fist pump into the air when your blood, sweat and tears saves a patient from the retrieval out to a far off town and hospital. 
Most of all, as the medical registrar in the outback, you witness all the medical presentations, reviews and consults. There is no chance for that really fascinating, publishable case to get past your nose. You see it all. This gives such a satisfying and comprehensive experience where patients start to become your own as you quickly learn about the people of the town. 
Perspective and lifestyles are different. What’s best in the city isn’t always best in the country. My favourite notion, that I think is beautiful in its three simple words, is being able to “pass on country”. Indigenous people have an extraordinarily beautiful culture and relationship with their country. 

Placing priorities as a bush physician on this idea of dying in the community means more than most of us can imagine. 

Dr Philippa (Pip) Tallis
Basic Physician Trainee
Royal Darwin Hospital and Katherine District Hospital

Ageing Aircraft Syndrome

Senior clinicians in the NT continue to be concerned about the safety of themselves and their patients while flying on aged aircrafts while on outreach trips.

A staff travel charter policy was created in 2012 in an attempt to improve efficiency for health and safety in air travel. Current panel contractors were given a five year contract based on their ability to demonstrate Airworthiness Directives, Civil Aviation Orders and Civil Aviation Regulations. All charter aircraft under panel contract flights are conducted in twin engine piston, twin engine turbo prop or single engine turbo prop certified aircraft. Where the proposed charter for one leg of the trip is greater than 250 nautical miles the preferred charter option is turbo prop aircraft. 

It is acknowledged that despite their regulations and charter policy, clinicians continue to feel unsafe in ageing aircraft. The RACP will continue to advocate for the pursuit of optimal air travel safety of its members and their patients.

RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence and Gerry Murphy Prize – Northern Territory representatives announced

RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence

The RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence competition is held to select State, Territory and New Zealand representatives to present their research in Melbourne in May 2017. Two trainees, one presenting in the field of adult medicine and one presenting in the field of paediatric medicine, are selected by the respective regional committee.

Congratulations to our trainees selected to represent the Northern Territory:

In the field of adult medicine
Dr Kristen Overton for her presentation ‘Evaluation of a cocooning program on infant pertussis infection in the Northern Territory’. 

In the field of paediatric medicine
Dr Anna Lithgow for her presentation ‘Patterns of paediatric emergency presentations to a tertiary referral centre in the Northern Territory’.

Dr Anna Lithgow and Dr Kristen Overton

Gerry Murphy Prize

dr-nick-georgesThe Gerry Murphy Prize is open to trainees currently enrolled in the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine training program.

Congratulations to Dr Nick Georges, who has been selected as the Northern Territory representative for his presentation titled ‘Was it the chicken, the egg, or something else? A gastroenteritis outbreak most likely due to norovirus at a top end school principals’ workshop’.

2016 RACP Northern Territory Annual Scientific Meeting 

nt-asm-2016The 2016 RACP Northern Territory Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) was held in Darwin on Saturday, 26 November and live streamed to Alice Springs. Access and Patient Centre Care were the major themes of the ASM and an impressive line-up of guest speakers delivered inspiring presentations. Dr Christine Connors once again demonstrated her expertise as MC and facilitated an exciting program which included the RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence and the Gerry Murphy Prize.

Highlights included Bilawara Lee’s Welcome to Country and the Opening Address delivered by RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland. A panel session attended by consumers provided insight into what patient centred care means to patients and families, and about engaging with the community for better health. 

The afternoon session saw seven trainees present their research on a range of interesting topics. All trainees are to be commended on their performance. Congratulations to everyone who participated.

Following the prize announcements and closing remarks, everyone had the opportunity to catch up with colleagues, network and enjoy delicious local cuisine at a nearby city restaurant.

Special thanks to the NT ASM working party for their hard work in pulling together another successful NT ASM.
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