Al's Australia Trip – The Challenges and Rewards of Indigenous Healthcare (Part 7)

Al's Australia Trip – The Challenges and Rewards of Indigenous Healthcare (Part 7)

In the latest part of his blog series, Al Spinner looks at the positive impact international Doctors can have on Indigenous Healthcare in Australia's stunning Northern Territory: 

How many of you Doctors reading this know which antibiotic to administer for a crocodile bite? (Answer at the end of the post!)

Monday 25th April, Guardian Australia Online:

'A 19-year-old man is recovering in hospital after he was pulled from his tent by a crocodile in Australia’s Northern Territory in the early hours of Monday morning.

The man was camping with his family near a creek in the Daly region, about two hours’ drive from Katherine.

The family were on a fishing trip, Guardian Australia was told, and had set up camp about 15m from the water’s edge. At about 4:30am a crocodile grabbed the young man’s right foot. The NT health department believes the man was asleep at the time of the attack but is yet to interview him directly.

“He somehow or other managed to kick it away with his other foot,” a spokeswoman said, describing the man as “very lucky”…

He had non-life threatening puncture wounds to his lower-right leg, and was on an antibiotics drip due to the bacteria in the mouths of crocodiles.'

My client at Katherine Hospital in the Northern Territory treated the attack victim and was amazed at the coverage this story had. Not that it was a daily occurrence – it just wasn’t that out of the ordinary. Medicine in the Northern Territory can be uniquely different from the rest of Australia. What is a daily occurrence and a more serious threat to the population are the major health issues impacting Indigenous Australians. These can make you feel like you are on a different continent altogether compared to the health demographics in metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne.

The state of Indigenous Australian health provides a tragic and powerful counterpoint to the modern Australian narrative. Life expectancy for Indigenous Australians in the NT is significantly lower and sick people are very, very sick. Whilst they make up only approximately 30% of the population, Indigenous people make up most of the hospital patient mix. Patients are younger. Most of the illnesses tend to be poverty related and Indigenous people tend to present very late in their sickness – kidney disease, in particular, among Indigenous people rates 4–5 times higher than non-indigenous people. A Physician told me approximately 90% of Indigenous people with signs of chronic kidney disease are not aware they have it.

International experts tend to be drawn to the Northern Territory because of these complex issues. Doctors we place in the Territory tend to be attracted to these challenges and to the belief that they can make a concrete difference to Indigenous health – which many do. Many have a strong belief in social justice and feel rewarded by the idea that their contributions will make a difference.

The Northern Territory provides an exceptional platform for Consultants looking for:

  • A unique Australian experience 
  • Interesting medicine and a chance to make a real difference to a disadvantaged patient group
  • Opportunities for research and teaching
  • Lucrative remuneration package

For more information, contact Al Spinner on +44 (0)131 240 5276 or via 

NB The antibiotic for a crocodile bite is tazobactam!

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