• Dr Rallah-Baker has called for cultural competency to become standard good practice before health workers are registered.| Pic: Michael Amendolia (Fred Hollows Foundation)Source: Fred Hollows Foundation
The Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) says an Aboriginal patient in NSW was denied testing, with the health practitioner claiming priority treatment was only given to “real Aborigines”.
Bernadette Clarke

28 Mar 2020 - 6:24 AM  UPDATED 28 Mar 2020 - 7:19 AM

The Australian Indigenous Doctors Association this week received reports that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders had experienced racism around testing and treatment of COVID-19.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) said one Aboriginal patient in NSW was denied testing, with a health practitioner claiming priority treatment was only given to “real Aborigines”.

The statement also said that AIDA had received a message from a West Australian hospital in regards to a comment made by an employee that First Nations people "only get [COVID-19] because they don't wash their hands".

AIDA's statement called for culturally safe care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 

Speaking with NITV News, the president of the association, Yuggera and Biri-Gubba-Juru/Yuggea man Dr Kris Rallah-Baker, said AIDA first heard about the Aboriginal patients being denied testing from a distressed Indigenous doctor working in western NSW.

“Most [Aboriginals] have been turned away. When the head of the department was questioned about that he said they’re only screening Indigenous patients if they recently have been overseas, and secondly, that non-Indigenous doctors would only screen “genuine” Aboriginals,” said Dr Rallah-Baker.

Dr Rallah-Baker said such comments from medical professionals were totally unprofessional and unethical.

“It’s actually their obligation to understand that different people have different access to means. Different people in our society, whether they be Indigenous, non-Indigenous, disabled, homeless, wealthy – we all have different access to needs," he said.

“To fail to understand that, they fail in their professionalism and they have failed in their responsibility to society and to their patients.”

Dr Rallah-Baker condemned all types of racism in the workplace and said he hoped standards around cultural competency would form part of medical registration in the future. 

The Commonwealth’s Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Coronavirus acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a vulnerable, at-risk group and AIDA said it was generally satisfied with the efforts taken to protect remote Aboriginal communities from the virus.


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