Prior to 2011 Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre was unable to demonstrate many initiatives that supported our existing Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander patient population or encouraged earlier presentation of new patients for diagnosis and treatment. This paper will report on many changes that this health service has implemented over the last 12 months to improve service delivery to this under-served cancer patient population.
Under the auspices of the Aboriginal Cancer Care at Peter Mac: Connecting and Responding Project, the health service has undertaken two key research methods: 1) to understand more about this patient population and explore opportunities to better identify patients of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin and 2) to examine staff requirement for education and training in this area. Coupled with this we have strengthened working relationships with key external stakeholders, implemented several system changes and enhanced our aesthetics to be more encompassing of Aboriginal patients.
An extensive data mining analysis was undertaken to define the current population of Aboriginal patients receiving treatment at Peter Mac including range of diagnoses and patient demographics.
A staff survey of 265 participants indicated that 84% were interested in learning more about Aboriginal health to enhance their capacity to provide culturally sensitive care.
A toolkit for staff focussing on the needs of Aboriginal patients and resources to support them was launched on the hospital intranet.
Whilst it is too early to determine whether this project will have an overall positive effect on the Aboriginal patient numbers attending Peter Mac for treatment we have demonstrated a 37% increase in inpatient activity.
Informal feedback from current patients has indicated that the changes implemented have made Peter Mac a more culturally welcoming and safe environment. The project has also demonstrated that staff acknowledge the importance of understanding how to provide the best care for this disadvantaged patient group.