Health Minister Kim Hames wants mobile “MASH-style” camps with operating theatres to travel to remote parts of the Kimberley to tackle hearing problems affecting hundreds of indigenous children.
Dr Hames acknowledged the State Government needed to seriously explore ways of improving ear health in Aboriginal communities in the region.
“We are aware of it,” Dr Hames said in an interview with the Broome Advertiser.“There have been studies done but recently a parliamentary inquiry found it was probably far worse than a lot of people
thought, with 40 to 50 per cent of children in some remote communities having impaired hearing.
“So when they go to class, they can’t hear the teacher, they get frustrated and they don’t get a proper education.
“We have got to look at ways in which we can improve ear health throughout the community.”
Dr Hames said setting up mobile camps was an option he would seriously consider.
“What we are looking at is a surgical bus to go out to remote communities and set up in a MASH-style fashion, to be able to do some of the surgery there rather than having to bring everyone to Broome or to Kununurra,” he said.
Dr Hames said another option was to employ Aboriginal people already living in the communities to identify and co-ordinate treatment.
“Their job would be to be in that community and look after the ear health of those children. It is such a critical issue for the future of Aboriginal children that they are able to hear properly,” he said.
“We would train them, employ them and make sure they have got direct communication to specialists either here or in the city and they will co-ordinate those students who need surgery.
“The issue is we have got the WA Country Health Service covering about half of the Kimberley and the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service covering the other half.
“I think we have got to work a lot closer together and probably even contract out some of that work to the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service to grow that service.”
Dr Hames also threw his support behind a Royal Flying Doctor Service bid for State Government funding to build a $20 million base in Broome.
“We are considering their proposal. It seems very good. I have been through the statistics they present and we can in fact save a lot of money by having a second base here, as well as the one in Derby,” he said.“They have had a huge increase in demand. They are doing a lot of work in transferring people around and it’s critically important work.”