Aboriginal organisations say they are ‘disheartened’ and "totally perplexed" and "disheartened" by the Commonwealth Department of Health's decision to award the Indigenous Comprehensive Primary Health Care grant of almost $1.7m to a privately owned, non-Indigenous Perth-based company.
In September last year, Federal Minister for Aboriginal Health, Ken Wyatt, approved $1,692,856 – two-year's worth of funding– to Redimed, a company that specialises in the delivery of services for occupational health and industrial-related health issues.
The minister said one of the key considerations in awarding the grant was the capacity for the company to help close the gap in health equality.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO ) has publicly slammed the decision, with Acting Chair, Donnella Mills stating she was ‘appalled’ when she found out allocated Indigenous funding had been given to a non-Indigenous organisation.
“I am totally perplexed how a non-Aboriginal, privately-owned company, that has no experience whatsoever of working in the delivery of comprehensive primary health to Aboriginal people, can be given a federal government grant of almost $1.7m,” Ms Mills said in a statement.
“It is especially concerning that Redimed and its newly created entity, Aboriginal Medical Care 360, was not required to go through the proper normal application process that all our 145 Members Aboriginal Health Services must always do. Where is the clinical accreditation all our organisations must have prior to receiving government funding?” she said.
NACCHO said they strongly believe that any such funding should only be given when there is an open and transparent process, and “in this case, it was not”.
Perth has two Aboriginal community health services catering for not only the Noongar community, but also the wider Aboriginal community, including visitors from regional Western Australia.
Moorditj Koort and Derbarl Yerrigan have a number of clinics throughout Perth and offer a variety of services to their patients, including both primary health care and chronic diseases.
Moorditj Koort CEO Jonathan Ford told NITV News he was "disconcerted" when he first heard about the approval of the grant due to the fact that there are only two Aboriginal health services within the Perth metro region, and "neither of them were consulted regarding the funding allocation".
Founded in 2010, Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre is a community controlled, not-for-profit organisation, which started with two clinics in Perth suburbs with a high population of Aboriginal people. In recent years they opened two more clinics as demand grew.
“We have round 400 chronic disease patients, about 100 health and lifestyle patients and we can see up to 400 children and youth within the school systems,” Mr Ford said.
Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service is an Aboriginal community controlled health service that has provided culturally appropriate health and support services across Perth since 1974. Services include GP clinics, maternal and child health program, dental health, cardiac service, counselling and outreach programs.
Elizabeth Hansen Autumn Centre has been operating in Perth for almost 20 years and has accommodation for Aboriginal people from regional and remote Western Australia who are in Perth for medical treatment.
Yesterday, Derbarl Yerrigan's Chair, Jackie Oakley, announced the organisation will be closing their doors to Perth's only culturally appropriate long-term medical accommodation, Elizabeth Hansen Autumn Centre, after no longer having the funds to keep it open.
Redimed has two clinics in Perth but states they have ‘innovative telehealth capability’ and uses technology to treat some patients. The company has four core areas, Aboriginal services are not one of those.
New Business Name Registered
However, Redimed has recently registered a new business name, Aboriginal Health Care 360.
During Senate Estimates in February, the Commonwealth Health Department’s First Assistant Secretary of the Indigenous Health Division, Mark Roddam, revealed Redimed was required to consult and collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in Perth.
“We did state that the pilot was not to duplicate any already funded service and was to serve only clients who weren't already visiting other Indigenous Australians' Health Program funded services,” Mr Roddam said.
Mr Roddman stated Redimed will be partnering with not-for-profit organisation, Koya Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal-own and operated company.
For more than 14 years, Koya has been operating in the Greater Swan region in Perth and provides services such as transport, sports programs, training and employment. The company is 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and was founded by a surviving member of the Stolen Generations.
Redimed and Koya will partner together to provide a mobile health service to Aboriginal people across the Perth metropolitan area, said a spokesperson for Koya.
Moorditj Koort‘s Mr Ford says he is glad an Aboriginal organisation is in some way involved with Redimed and their funding grant, but is still disappointed Derbarl Yerrigan wasn’t considered for the funding.
“Whilst Koya is a support service to the application, the biggest concern is the ability for a mainstream service to get the 1.6 million dollars in the first place. Particularly not being a non- profit Indigenous organisation or a community-controlled Aboriginal health organisation in the sector” Mr Ford said.
“I think it is almost shocking to hear that a mainstream service can even get that kind of money, even as a lead agent. The question should be asked, why wasn’t Koya given the money directly and Redimed be the support service."
During Senate Estimates, the Department’s First Assistant Secretary of the Indigenous Health Division Mark Roddam said any organisation was able to apply for this particular grant because there was no tender process and Redimed submitted an unsolicited proposal.
Mr Roddam said any organisation, including private and for-profit organisation, can apply through an unsolicited process.
Federal Indigenous Health Minister, Ken Wyatt, said it was normal for this funding program to receive unsolicited bids and stated applications can be assessed against Indigenous Australian’s Health Program Guidelines.
“Selective criticism of the funding of Redimed, which is partnering with Koya Aboriginal Corporation in its work, begs the question of how serious people are about supporting a broad range of innovative measures to improve overall Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. As I have said before, the key consideration is services’ capacity to help in Closing the Gap in health equality,” he said.
Koya and Redimed will be targeting the Close the Gap priority areas of health through life expectancy and child mortality, and economic development through the Aboriginal workforce.