10 May 2023

New renal dialysis service coming to Cape York

| Matt Nicholls
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A NEW four-chair supported renal haemodialysis unit will be established at Kowanyama this year.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service acting chief executive Dean Davidson said the $3.5 million unit would be built adjacent to the Kowanyama Primary Healthcare Centre.

“Construction for the new Kowanyama unit will start mid-next year after the wet season and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023,” he said.

“The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service is developing a model of care that will allow dialysis services at Kowanyama to be delivered with the support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners with advanced training in kidney health.

“The health service already has an Advanced Kidney Health Practitioner at the Thursday Island dialysis unit and is training another for Bamaga.

“There are also plans to begin training and support of other health practitioners for all of the health service’s remote dialysis services and other specialist services.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners can provide a range of primary health care and clinical activities, including administering medicines, arranging referrals, assisting with sexual health and oral health checks, and delivering immunisations. They can also ensure the teams they work with deliver care in a culturally safe and suitable manner.’’

Mr Davidson said as well as the new Kowanyama Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner-supported unit, the Torres and Cape HHS already had existing nurse-assisted dialysis units at Thursday Island, Bamaga, Weipa, and Cooktown.

The funding for the new Kowanyama dialysis unit was initially announced as part of a $27.7 million state government 2020 election commitment for the expansion of Queensland rural and remote dialysis services.

On December 1, 2022, a further $6.35 million capital funding was approved, bringing the total commitment to $34.2 million.


ADDITIONAL funding also has been allocated to the Cooktown Hospital to allow its existing dialysis unit to double its care capacity from 16 up to 32 patients. Funding has enabled the recruitment of additional staff, allowing for more supported dialysis sessions to be made available as needed at Cooktown.

Mr Davidson said not all patients requiring dialysis would be able to have their dialysis in one of the Torres and Cape HHS dialysis units.

“Due to the complexity of their conditions and the clinical requirement for them to have immediate access to highly specialised kidney services in Cairns that are not available in the Torres and Cape HHS, there may always be some patients who will need to relocate permanently to Cairns, or another large centre, to access those services,’’ he said.

“But for those deemed clinically suitable, the availability of assisted dialysis services across five health facilities in the Torres Strait and Cape York is a major improvement in their lives.”

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