Culturally appropriate waiting rooms can improve outcomes

6 Apr 2018

Article from AMA Rounds of 6 April 2018.

Dr Gannon backed a new policy encouraging NSW hospitals to provide “culturally appropriate spaces” for Indigenous patients and families in emergency departments.

The policy does not mandate separate waiting rooms for Indigenous patients, but calls for a “culturally appropriate space” within each hospital to be identified, and encourages hospitals to display Indigenous artwork as a way of being more inclusive and welcoming.

Dr Gannon, who will visit remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia later this month, said that it is good that issues like cultural safety are entering the popular narrative.

“The AMA strongly supports Aboriginal control when it comes to primary care, and when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders being in larger health facilities like our hospitals, I think we need to do everything we can to make them the appropriate settings to seek care,” he told Sky News.

“If that means spending a little bit of money on waiting areas, if that means making subtle changes to outpatient clinics or inpatient wards to make Indigenous people feel more at home, I don’t think non-Indigenous people should find that threatening.”

A trial on the NSW Mid North Coast showed a 50 per cent reduction in the number of Indigenous patients leaving early from emergency departments after cultural awareness training for staff was introduced.

In the State's west, the Wiradjuri language and imagery has been incorporated into the Forbes and Parkes hospitals.