Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (April 2010)

Published: April, 2010

States wrangle while dialysis patients suffer

The hundred or so members of the congregation had gathered at a multi-denominational service to mark World Kidney Day in March this year.

It was a special prayer meeting held to bring to public attention the tragic predicament of patients from just over the borders of South Australia and Western Australia because most of these people are now denied treatment in Alice Springs.

Bureaucratic wrangling between the Northern Territory , WA and SA has left them with bleak futures, receiving treatment far from home and family in Perth or Adelaide.

Nura Ward is well known and well loved by many of the congregation, especially from the NPY Women's Council staff who had worked with her over the years. But Nura Ward is from Ernabella and was on the brink of being sent to receive dialysis in Adelaide.

Ms Ward’s high public profile and the similar plight of Kiwirrkurra painter Patrick Tjungarrayi late last year have highlighted the acute shortage of dialysis beds in Alice springs.

The Northern Territory has until recently accepted patients from interstate who have stronger connections with Alice Springs than they would with Adelaide or Perth, but last year demand for dialysis beds became so critical that interstate patients were being turned away.

Patrick Tjungarrayi was told he would need to go to Perth to receive dialysis. This year Ms Ward was set to be denied treatment in Alice Springs because she came from South Australia.

Fortunately Ms Ward’s condition has improved but she and other patients endured the unbearable anxiety of not knowing where they may be moved to be treated for their incurable disease while SA , WA and NT leaders blamed each other for the mess.

The NT Government now accepts new patients from WA, saying the State Government will pay for extra places, but South Australian patients haven't been so lucky. Several people from the APY Lands in the state's north have already been forced to move to Adelaide for long-term treatment. The South Australian Health Minister says the Territory government was discriminating against residents of his state.
The new facility

Currently 200 people need dialysis in Central Australia with many more expected in the near future.

There are 168 positions available as the facilities operate 24 hours a day seven days a week. A new dialysis facility in Gap Rd, Alice Springs, will have 12 functioning chairs accommodating 48 people, which means it can take six of the 16 people who still require places. It is expected to open in early May.

Warlpiri people have used their mining royalties to pay for a new regional respite clinic in Yuendumu and social support and allied health services in Alice Springs.

There are now 30 people from the region accessing these services. The Northern Territory Government-supplied dialysis machines should arrive in the next few weeks.

However, the Commonwealth Government has already recognised the contribution of the Warlpiri to this public health initiative and agreed to fund the clinic’s operational costs.

The new clinic will give respite dialysis to four people each week from Yuendumu, Willowra, Nyrripi and Mt Allen. All people from the region will be able to access the facility. The building was built using local company Walcon.