Better Cardiac Care team working to Close The Gap

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The Better Cardiac Care team at Wide Bay HHS are helping First Nations patients to access cardiac care. Cardiac issues are the leading health issue to the healthcare gap between First Nations and other Australians.

The Better Cardiac Care team at Wide Bay HHS are helping First Nations patients to access cardiac care. Cardiac issues are the leading health issue to the healthcare gap between First Nations and other Australians.

A new program is helping First Nations people gain better access to cardiac services, while also providing education and support to manage their heart health effectively.

With heart disease being the leading contributor to the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians, the Better Cardiac Care program aims to reduce health issues associated with cardiac conditions among the First Nations community.

A dedicated care team consisting of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health worker, a clinical nurse consultant and a pharmacist provides knowledge, expertise and cultural understanding to First Nations patients within public or private hospitals, or if they have been referred for an angiogram following an emergency presentation.

Formed as part of the broader Statewide Networked Cardiac Service program, the program is currently being run successfully in the Wide Bay.

Acting clinical nurse consultant for the Better Cardiac Care program in the Wide Bay, Aaron Smith, said the program’s purpose is to successfully close the healthcare gap in cardiology, the number one killer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Having this program and providing them that support, the cultural safety, the advocacy as a nurse to those patients and allowing them to be heard and being treated, is vital, regardless of the patient. Having that support can make such a big different,” Aaron said.

The team acts as a case manager for each patient, removing barriers and ensuring they can access appointments, providing education on their treatment, advocating for the patient’s needs and linking them to other support networks in the community.

“We are an in-reach service that looks at patients when they first hit the hospital and then continue that in the community. We liaise with the doctors, cardiologists, nurse practitioners across Wide Bay,” he said.

Pharmacist Natasha Shepley said the program’s success comes down to being tailored to be more culturally appropriate.

Pharmacist Natasha Shepley of the Better Cardiac Care team.

“We have Dale, our Aboriginal Health Officer who talks to (the patient) first and builds that rapport,” Natasha said.

“Then Aaron, the nurse, and myself, the pharmacist, go in and we do our clinical things as well as considering the cultural aspect of why they may accept or decline healthcare.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker for Better Cardiac Care, Dale Brown, said his role of making the initial contact and travelling that heartcare journey together was important.

First Nations Health Worker Dale Brown is a member of the Better Cardiac Care team.

“We can actually pick the patients up to take them to the GP appointments, we take them to the specialists, we also get them lined up with the ITC programme, Integrated Team Care,” Dale said.

“It’s the little things like that that does help a person more because a lot of them live out by themselves and that’s why they get that interaction with other people and they love it when you’re helping them out and they really appreciate it.”

Patient and Bundaberg local, Roslyn Richardson, said she believed she wouldn’t be alive today without the help of the Wide Bay Better Cardiac Care team.

“Dale takes me to the different doctors and Aaron comes and helps me and tells me different things going on,” Roslyn said.

“I’ve got more treatment and help from them than in the last three years.”

Clinical nurse consultant Aaron Smith from the Better Cardiac Care team.