"My friend who has passed away"

About: Kimberley Population Health Unit

(as a friend),

Earlier this year my very long term beloved friend, Gija language consultant and one time partner was very sick with a chest infection. He was living at Warmun Community. I live 200 kilometres north and have been visiting Warmun regularly to do Gija language work. Sometimes the Gija speakers visit me. Before going out there earlier this year I met a relation at the Ord River Roadhouse in Kununurra who told me that our dear friend is dying. You should go out to Warmun if you want to see him.” I was scheduled to go out very soon after that and found that he had been very sick and had a canula in his arm to get intravenous anti-biotics. I heard that this had only happened after serious lobbying of the Warmun Clinic by relations and also Warmun Art Centre staff. I believe he recovered that time. I had to leave Warmun earlier than intended due to the Covid lockdown. I saw him once more at a funeral in Kununurra before I saw him dying a few months later.

A few days before his passing, I heard that his child had told Art Centre staff their dad had pneumonia. I later heard that one of his in-laws spoke to the clinic on their relative’s behalf on the day before and was told to give him a Panadol. By the next evening I believe he was coughing blood and was flown to Broome where I believe they said that sepsis had set in and he was dying. He was flown back to Kununurra so that relations could see him before he died. I was with him on the day he died. I spoke to him by phone before he flew to Broome and he was speaking normally in his right mind, in my opinion. When I saw him a few days later he was unconscious.

Over the years I have frequently heard stories of sick people in Warmun being told to go away and take a Panadol. I believe that if someone had seen him earlier in the week and done the basic observations, stethoscope listening to chest, pulse, temperature and blood pressure surely someone should have noticed that he needed more than a Panadol. I believe he might be still with us. The community is still in lockdown because of Covid. I have to get a permit to go out there even though all the community is free to come to town to visit me. The Health department supposedly cares about the indigenous population – the reason for them still being lockdown.

I believe there no systematic regular monitoring of people over a certain age (my friend is an elderly person) and those younger with known health issues by staff of the Warmun clinic. In my opinion, the staff should visit people with known problems a couple of times a week to check on them. After nearly losing him earlier in the year why was he not being cared for.

Not only did we love him for all his great qualities, sense of humour, love of animals, but he was the last senior law man in the East Kimberley who knew about the old law. He was a dedicated teacher of Gija language and culture to the young and was always wanting to record with me. Each of these old people are like very special volumes of the Gija encyclopaedia of knowledge. I believe the clinic should be more mindful of keeping them with us as long as possible.


Response from Donna Hindmarsh, Regional Nursing and Midwifery Director - Kimberley, Kimberley, WA Country Health Service last month
We are preparing to make a change
Donna Hindmarsh
Regional Nursing and Midwifery Director - Kimberley, Kimberley,
WA Country Health Service
Submitted on 27/10/2020 at 17:07
Published on Care Opinion at 17:08

Dear polarisnt33,

Thank you for sharing your story with us about your friend who has passed away. The love you have for your friend shines through in the feedback you have given us about the care he received at the clinic. We are very sorry for your loss, and for the community’s loss of such a respected senior law man. Please be assured that this feedback has been taken seriously. We had met with the Warmun Community CEO in late July and were already working on matters that had arisen in that meeting, such as reducing clinic staff turnover and improving community cultural induction processes and the social interactions between clinic staff and the community.

Your feedback has provided us with further excellent advice on how we can best direct our clinic resources to systematic regular review of those most in need – the frail and elderly. It is advice that we plan to pursue in order to improve our service to the Warmun community. It is our job to care for the vulnerable members of our community and we want to assure you that we will be reviewing this as a priority.

Thank you for your heartfelt feedback as it allows us to understand where we need to make changes to better serve our community.

Kind regards

Donna Hindmarsh

Regional Director Nursing and Midwifery

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