Screenshot of Dr Mark Wenitong interview
2:57
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The importance of 715s can't be understated in our context for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I think it's one of the most important innovations that Medicare and the government's brought in.

And in actual fact this was initially designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ourselves, and started off in North Queensland.

And we needed to do it because we needed to get an understanding of what people's health profile was before they were unwell.

This is an important engagement tool in ensuring that the whole community knows they're able to come in when they're well, because often people still think they have to be sick to come to a clinic.

The other part is that we're going to get good community health level data from 715 certainly so, you know, if we do even 20% of the community, it gives us a bit of an idea of what the issues are that are out there.

So some practices that I have worked with have done, mainstream practices, have done lots of really simple things. Like in our practice, I had an Aboriginal receptionist come in, somebody who was smiling, welcoming, et cetera.

One of the things we found in some of the RACGP work was that it wasn't so much the doctors that were keeping patients out of clinics, it was actually the frontline staff.

So if our Aboriginal people walk into a service and they see somebody there that's kind of cold and unwelcoming, they're not going to come back.

So the relational aspects are the most important aspects of dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It's about relationships completely almost.

So if you don't build a relationship, your chance of getting a good history and really understanding what's going on in their life are very slim.

So if I were a mainstream GP, you're working in private practice somewhere, you wouldn't have a clue who the local Aboriginal community is there's a couple of ways of engaging.

Find a local Aboriginal Medical Service and just ask somebody there, and it may not be the CEO, even if you can just talk to one of the health workers here and say, ‘Who's the local elders group and how would I best approach them?’

You can actually Google it and look it up as well if you want to and most of the community groups will be responsive.

Sometimes they're not and it's not because they're ignoring you, it's just because they're so busy and they've got a whole lot of things running at the time.

So don't give up, just stay engaged and really, really try and make that effort to go, get out of your clinic in the afternoon, go visit them and have a yarn, and say ‘Who is best to talk to here in this community?’

And they'll tell you who. And there's always the elders, there's always men's groups, there's women's groups, there's justice groups and there's always people that you can talk to and engage with and they'll give you information because they want the best services for their own as well.

To all my GP colleagues out there, we have a responsibility to take care of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community the same way that we take care of any part our community.