An antenatal program for Narrogin and surrounding areas that targets Aboriginal women has been recognised for its ability to overcome the tyranny of distance and deliver outstanding health care to rural communities.
The Boodjarri Yorga – which means pregnant women in Noongar language – antenatal program won the partnering with consumers and carers award at the WA Health Awards on November 22.
Based on a shared care program with local GPs and hospital, the program is staffed by Aboriginal health workers, grandmother liaison officers and midwives.
Midwife Louise McEllister supports Narrogin, Pingelly, Brookton, Kondinin, Wagin and Dumbleyung, and said she was thrilled to gain recognition.
“The community’s acceptance of this program has been a beauty,” she said.
“It is something the community really wants, so it makes it easy to assist women throughout their pregnancy.”
Ms McEllister said the program had run for the past seven years and co-ordinated and facilitated care for women who sometimes found it difficult to access services.
“Often we have complications, and we talk to these ladies when they have to go to King Edward Hospital in Perth and explain what is happening to them, and what we need to do next,” she said.
“We also link up to King Edward Hospital via video conferencing so they don’t have to travel to Perth for all their appointments.
“It means women don’t have to leave the district to get their tertiary antenatal care.”
Grandmother liaison officer Nola Williams said her role was to act as an intermediary between care providers and the community.
“Louise and I go out and we hear from grandmothers or family members that someone is pregnant and we contact them and tell them that they need their tablets and their doctor’s check-up ... transport to the doctors or whatever they need,” she said.
Ms Williams said the pair encouraged women to take good medical care of themselves to ensure the health of their baby.
Wheatbelt Aboriginal Health Service manager Rosey Lupton said the program employed five midwives in four Wheatbelt districts, and Aboriginal health workers and a liaison officer.
“Early participants were recruited through a door-knocking and word-of-mouth approach and it is now well established in the community,” she said.
“Since the program’s inception we have seen an increase in immunisation rates and improved health in expectant mothers, and we’ve also seen an increased awareness of the importance of safe car travel for babies and %child8ren.”
Award winners were selected from more than 80 nominees across 11 categories, and included hospitals, and primary health care and public health providers.