4 October 2023

New public health team showing early signs of success

| Matt Nicholls
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Queensland’s Health Minister Shannon Fentiman (centre) with Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Public Health Unit staff Allison Hempenstall, Jared Noah, Melissa Sprague and and Rotona Martin.

A NEW public health unit has been set up to focus directly on treating and preventing serious diseases in Cape York and the Torres Strait.

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service launched the new unit earlier this year and it is already seeing great results, with targeted community responses to malaria, diphtheria, tuberculosis, COVID-19 and influenza.

The team is led by an operations manager with support from a public health medical officer and includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, tuberculosis staff specialists and nurses, public health nurses and public health officers.

TCHHS executive director of medical services Marlow Coates said the communities within the region were affected by a range of communicable diseases rarely seen in mainstream Australia. He said in the past three years there had also been outbreaks of shigella, salmonella, influenza, and COVID-19 in the region.

“More than two thirds of our residents identify as Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander peoples who suffer a higher incidence of chronic disease including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease,” Dr Coates said.

“This new unit allows us to partner with local stakeholders to respond to outbreaks very quickly and in a culturally appropriate manner,.

“The unit proved highly effective in July when it partnered with primary health care teams and local leaders to respond to the first cases of malaria in the Torres Strait in 10 years.”

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