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Torres and Cape HHS looks to future after a year of achievements

27 September 2019

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service has celebrated a year of achievements and will pursue a range of exciting new health care initiatives over the next 12 months.

The health service’s annual report for 2018–19 was tabled in State Parliament this week.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Board Chair Ella Kris said health staff had worked hard to maintain high levels of childhood immunisation.

“They have also worked to reduce elective surgery and specialist outpatient waits, increase telehealth use, increase nephrology outreach support, increase ambulatory mental health service contact and reduce potentially preventable hospitalisations.

“These are major achievements for a rural and remote health service such as ours.’’

Ms Kris said – at 64 per cent – the Torres and Cape HHS had the largest percentage of people in Queensland identifying as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent, as well as the greatest diversity of Traditional Owner groups.

“If we are serious about Closing the Gap, then we must be serious about addressing the underlying
structural factors that widen the gap,’’ she said.

“These include factors such as social determinants of health, institutional racism, addressing family, domestic and lateral violence and improving access not only to a culturally appropriate primary health care but a culturally safe hospital and health service for all people of Cape York, the Northern Peninsula Area and Torres Strait.

“Health is more than just a hospital service, it is the social and emotional wellbeing of an individual, of a family, a community and a nation.

“To address the structural factors underlying the poor health outcomes of our region, we must first accept that health is everybody’s responsibility, including each of us as individuals, and should be a topic for every government and non-government agency.

“If we are emotional unhealthy, so will be our level of self-esteem.

“We will continue to build on both our residents’ health and their self-esteem during 2019–20.’’

Ms Kris said a snapshot of 2018–19 achievements included:
Creation of and successful recruitment to new executive positions of Executive Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Executive Director of Allied Health which has led to a strengthening of workforce structure from entry to executive level.

  • Launch of the Torres and Cape HHS Strategic Plan 2019–23, which will give a clear vision for the next four years.
  • Torres Strait Dental telehealth project has seen the introduction of the first online oral health training program for remote primary health personnel.
  • Opening of a self-care renal dialysis unit at Thursday Island Hospital, in addition to the existing nurse-assisted dialysis unit.
  • 95.1 per cent of emergency department presentations treated within four hours of arrival, well above the target of 80 per cent.
  • The median waiting time in emergency departments was 5 minutes.
  • 176 gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures undertaken, 76 more than in previous financial year.
  • 1926 telehealth consultations, 380 more than previous financial year.
  • 176 babies born.

“But we’re not resting on our laurels, as we have a very impressive list of priorities to tackle over the next 12 months,’’ Ms Kris said.

She said major initiatives that would be pursued during 2019–20 included:

  • Progressing $92 million of capital works programs, including $46 million for the Thursday Island Hospital and Thursday Island Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC, $17.4 million of major upgrades for four island primary health care centres and $7 million new Mer Island PHCC.
  • Introduction of birthing service at Weipa Integrated Health Service.
  • Implementation of the health service Renal Dialysis Plan 2019–2032, including introduction of nurse-assisted renal dialysis at Weipa and Bamaga.
  • Implementation of the $1.09 million Western Cape Chronic Kidney Disease Service as part of the state-wide Advancing Kidney Care 2026 Plan.
  • Establishment of a cardiac outreach service for Cape York, Northern Peninsula Area and Torres Strait communities from the hub sites of Cooktown, Weipa and Thursday Island.
  • Continue to progress the Transition Action Plan with Apunipima Cape York Health Council to transition primary health care services to Aboriginal community control in up to four more communities (Napranum, Coen, Lockhart River and Mapoon) and strengthen collaboration in other communities.
  • Continue master planning for a new hospital at Cooktown.

“During 2019–20, we will also continue working with our government and non-government partners to implement strategies that support our residents to better manage their health and keep them out of hospital in the first place,’’ Ms Kris said.

She said staff numbers had increased over the past 12 months to help deliver expanded services.

As at 30 June 2019, the Torres and Cape HHS had a total of 1023.19 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees across all classification streams and comprising full, part-time and casual staff and including 42 doctors and 373 nurses. This was an increase of 73.96 FTE in total staff from 2017–2018.

Ms Kris said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff comprised about 17.5 per cent of total staff
numbers in the health service.

“I would like to commend all our staff for their commitment and dedication to our clients and communities over the past 12 months. Without their work, we would not have achieved our many successes,’’ she

“I would also like to commend previous board chair Bob McCarthy who helped lay down the solid foundations on which this annual report is based.’’

Ms Kris said the health service had ended the financial year with a small, planned deficit of about $400,000.

“This represented additional investment in clinical and corporate service reviews and planning activities during the year,’’ she said.

“Nevertheless, despite the small deficit, the health service achieved considerable growth of its own source revenue, resulting from the successful achievement of revenue maximisation strategies.

“We expect to continue this growth in own source revenue during 2019–20.

“We look forward in the next year to helping our communities to live healthier and happier lives.’’

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service 2018–19 annual report can be found at:

Last updated: 2 October 2019