Collaborative partnership improving hearing outcomes for Aboriginal children in WA

There are two photos. Left photo: an Aboriginal boy sits on an Aboriginal woman's lap while a doctor kneels beside them. Right photo: An Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer sits next to an Aboriginal woman with a child on her lap.
Dr Francis Lannigan (kneeling in first photo) and Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer Liza Kerley with some special patients.
November 8, 2021

Rockingham General Hospital (RGH) has contributed to the improved hearing outcomes of 32 Aboriginal children by providing streamlined access to ear nose and throat (ENT) surgery as part of a monthly ENT specialist clinic set up by Cockburn Integrated Health (CIH) in partnership with Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) and Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Corporation.

Studies show Aboriginal children have the highest rates of ear disease and associated hearing loss in the world. Such a loss significantly impacts on their development, schooling and longer-term employment opportunities.  

Through the clinic, Aboriginal children from across the Perth metropolitan area are seen by an ENT specialist and receive timely surgical intervention, if needed.

RGH Medical Co-Director Surgery and Specialist Care, Andrew Thompson, said he thought it was a great opportunity when he was approached by Dr Francis Lannigan earlier this year to see if RGH could facilitate a monthly surgical list for Aboriginal children as part of CIH’s ENT specialist clinic.

“The executive team were very supportive and to have someone as experienced as Francis performing ENT surgery at RGH was a welcomed addition to the team,” Andrew said.

Since January 2021, Francis has performed 32 surgeries at RGH, seeing approximately four to five Aboriginal children once a month with the support of the Day Procedure Unit, operating theatres and Post Anaesthetic Care Unit.

Francis said the monthly surgical list at RGH has run smoothly over the last 10 months with the most common procedure being grommets, but he also performs other day surgeries such as adenoidectomy and ear drum grafting.

“Family feedback about their experience has been very positive,” Francis said.

“It’s a really important program to be involved with, being able to treat people with respect and dignity, and working to provide equitable access to health care.”

Rockingham Peel Group Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer Liza Kerley is also instrumental in supporting families and patients during their day surgeries at RGH.

“I help families navigate their way around the hospital and with filling out paperwork, which can be quite daunting,” Liza said.

“It has been really rewarding knowing we are able to help these kids in their early years, which will help to improve their quality of life overall.”

Since the ENT specialist clinic started at CIH in late 2019, more than 200 Aboriginal children have been treated, with surgery organised for almost 70 children at RGH and St John of God (SJoG) Murdoch Hospital.

The ENT specialist clinic was also formed in collaboration with Telethon Speech and Hearing and Hearing Australia with specialist surgical services provided by RGH ENT surgeon Dr Francis Lannigan and SJoG Murdoch ENT surgeon Dr George Sim. The RGH initiative is an extension of the program commenced at SJoG Murdoch by Dr Sim.

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