28 November 2023

Funding boost for Cape York's award-winning health program

| Matt Nicholls
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Hope Vale boy Asharani Lee-Cheu having his ear cleaned by Dr Bryan Hawarden while mum Letarnia McIvor watches on.

An award-winning ENT team in Cape York and the Torres Strait has expanded after a $2.1 million investment from the state government’s Connect Community Pathways program.

The funding enables the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Integrated ENT program to add a second team to its service, potentially doubling the number of patients they can see in a year.

The team – which includes a general practitioner with specialist ENT training, a senior ENT nurse, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, an audiologist, and a speech pathologist – have enjoyed exponential growth since its launch in 2021, servicing 14 communities and seeing almost 1500 patients in 2023.

The team was recently announced as winners of the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Queensland Health Clinical Excellence Showcase – an annual awards event highlighting innovative health models and projects across Queensland.

The state government said it was proud to support the Torres and Cape Integrated ENT program and deliver services closer to home for Queenslanders in our rural, remote, and regional communities.

“I know our healthcare workers in the Torres and Cape region work tirelessly for their communities and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication to providing culturally safe care,” said Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman.

“I’m thrilled they’ve been able to add an extra team to their ENT service and potentially double the number of patients they can see and provide treatment to.

“This initiative is a great example of how our $67.5 million Connected Community Pathways program is helping to improve access to health care for Queenslanders.

“Residents in the Torres and Cape region can be assured that the Palaszczuk government is committed to delivering services close to home for our rural, remote, and regional communities.”

Elijah Watt gets his ear checked by Dr Bryan Hawarden on Thursday Island as mum Prue Francis looks on.

New GP Dr Hawarden comes with seven years of ENT experience and is already making life-changing impacts for patients.

He travelled to Thursday Island and was able to refer his first patient – a young boy who had been suffering for five years – for life-changing adenoid surgery.

“Working in Cairns Hospital, we used to get a lot of patient referrals from Torres and Cape, and I was able to learn about the region and the acute need for services closer to home,” Dr Hawarden said.

“The ENT team have achieved extraordinary results to date and hopefully we will be able to help even more people now.

“I am looking forward to travelling to the communities and assisting both adults and children to improve their quality of life.”

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service executive director of allied health Amanda Wilson said: “With a second GP in place, we are hoping this will allow the team to reach the outer Torres Strait islands, as well as Thursday Island, Cape York and the NPA.

“This team has had such great success already because they are offering a culturally appropriate service close to home for those in our communities.

“We are thrilled to have Dr Hawarden join the team as we continue to expand many allied health services across the entire region.”

Prior to the establishment of the ENT program, patients requiring treatment often had to travel from community to larger centres like Cairns to be seen by a doctor or specialist.

Most of the hearing conditions seen and treated by the Torres and Cape HHS ENT team were caused by treatable ear infections.

New ENT team doctor Dr Bryan Hawarden made his first community visit to Thursday Island last month.

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