The Clinic

It’s a shamble. An absolute disgrace. I haven’t yet had a positive experience there. But perhaps I’m biased. I came here with 10 years of nursing experience, of which 7 years has been as a Registered Nurse in a busy Metropolitan Emergency Department (minus a couple of breaks to have babies). Before coming to Amata, I made contact with the organisation that provides the health care services across the APY. But they weren’t interested in employing me, unless I was prepared to travel to other communities and work full time – neither of which I can do. So I sit here, with my skills going to waste. I went to the clinic in the first couple of week because Min had boils – basically they’d morphed into skin infections because of all the bugs up here. Boils are common up here. I walked over, Min in the stroller (his name is Bob) and baby asleep on my back. The clinic was due to open at 2pm. At 2.10 I was standing outside, waiting in 45 degree heat. Eventually someone rocks up and let’s me in. She doesn’t tell me what to do, there’s no signs. I sit down. She explains that she’s the midwife, and wants to get some details first. “Now, he’s definitely not Aboriginal” she says, it wasn’t a question. “Um, he absolutely IS Aboriginal.” She looks at me askance, and moves on. Age, height etc. “Now, you said he wasn’t Aboriginal, right?”. “No. He IS Aboriginal. He’s Anangu. He may not look it to you, but he is. I am, both my children are.” Again, she looks at me blankly. She gives me some paw paw cream and Betadine – standard care for boils apparently. The following day the phone rings: “oh hi! It’s such and such from the health service, just checking some details about your son and his sore eye.” Silence… “You mean his boils?” More silence… “Ahh yes! Boils!” I’m waiting for it…. “Now, he’s not Aboriginal is he?” I exhale sharply. “He absolutely and 100% IS Aboriginal. I’ve answered this question 3 times now – and I’m starting to feel that my son is being racially profiled based on his skin colour.” My pulse is thumping in my ears – I’m normally not one for confrontation. “Oh no! Nothing like that!” He says, back pedalling. He asks my background and when he hears my professional experience he says: “you’re the first person, in my 20 years of working on the lands, that is up here wanting to work and can’t! It seems pretty short sighted.” And he’s right. It is. 

It was a couple of weeks later that I came down with a cracking case of tonsilitis. Fever of 40, rigors, vomiting – I needed antibiotics. I was so sick that Matt had to stay home from work to look after the kids. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to go back to the clinic. I walked over, and went in. There is absolutely no signage to tell you what to do or where to sit, there’s Anangu everywhere. I go in and sit on a bench. No one speaks to me or aknowleges me; I don’t even know what I’m waiting for. After 40 minutes of waiting I realise that all of the Anangu are sitting in another waiting area, so I move to sit there with them – I think there’s some unwritten rule that no one sits in the first area? Who’s to say?! I look around – it’s disgusting. There are dead bugs on the floor, and it’s a mess. The sheets on the examination table are filthy. It’s a disgrace – and the Anangu deserve so much better. Once I moved to this other waiting area, a nurse asks me if I’ve been seen – no one seems to know what anyone else is doing. I was asked at least 4 times if I had been seen. I don’t understand why they don’t run it like an emergency department – triaging people, seeing the most urgent and time critical people first, and then the rest in order of presentation.  The nurse that finally sees me is professional and competent, agreeing with my provisional diagnosis and giving me some antibiotics. A week later I have to take Min back. I know I need to go and sit in the other area this time – and only 3 people ask me if I’ve been seen. The nurse that sees us is rude, and speaks to me with distain. “These aren’t boils. It’s Impitigo – don’t you understand the difference?!” Clearly not. And given that it was a nurse here that made the original diagnosis – and because we don’t see many boils or Impitigo in my Emergency Department, I deferred to her experience. I wanted desperately to tell her that I was an RN myself, but that wouldn’t be received too well. Min was asking me about the oxygen cylinders and what they’re for – “sometimes when people can’t get enough oxygen into their lungs, bloodstream and to their brain, they need some extra oxygen.” “DO NOT TOUCH THAT” the nurse yells at Min, in his face. I was so shocked. “It’s always more effective from someone else” she says. I was so shocked and disgusted that I gathered my things, and promptly left. I don’t know how much input the APY and NPY has into the day to day running of this clinics, and I’ve no doubt that it’s challenging work. But this clinic is terrible. I really hope we stay healthy for a while. 

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4 thoughts on “The Clinic

  1. I had the same rude experience when i lived and worked in the lands in the last couple of years. Different nurses would tell me different ‘rules’ about non-Anangu access to the clinic. The rudeness seemed to be the norm- and the lack of welcome, lack of signage etc was exactly the same. Sitting on those awful benches and waiting for someone to notice me. Now I see it seems it is the ‘way it is’ in the Clinics- across all the communities. And don’t get me started on the nurses who go regularly go into ‘town’ and get drunk and abusive and then drive their 4WD back to the communities! And then Anangu People being picked up by police for drink driving on the same night and spending the night in the Marla cells, even though they are not ‘allowed’ to drink the same amount as non-Anangu at the local pub/diner (totally illegal in SA). Even the Aboriginal Centrelink worker had to prove she was not from one of the communities to be able to drink alcohol- and she was a paying client at the pub. Open racism at service provider meetings by the head od the local police station- and I was the only person there that would stand up to it- and this is in a meeting with 20 non-Anangu in the room- all purporting to ‘want to help’ (can I cringe any more than I still do when i hear non-Aboriginal people say that) Anangu … of course their utopia is STILL assimilation … these days known by integration. I am interested in your blog and keen to see more writing. I hope that it helps you keep going …. I am back in Adelaide now – I had a car accident and needed to be with family.

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