A cultural journey: Papua New Guinea to a North Queensland tertiary hospital

Ms Julie Watson1, Ms Chris Fox, Ms Elisabeth McColl

1Townsville Hospital And Health Service, Townsville, Australia

Background:  Each year an increasing number of patients arrive at the Townsville Hospital Intensive Care Units (adult, paediatric and neonatal) via Queensland Health Retrieval Services from Papua New Guinea.   The social, emotional and cultural issues for these patients and their accompanying family member/s are significant.  Papua New Guinea is one of the most ethnically diverse and complex countries in the world. Patients arriving at The Townsville Hospital (TTH) are primarily from small coastal villages in some of the remotest areas of Papua New Guinea.

Allied Health teams managing these patients at TTH have developed a wealth of knowledge, networks and innovative solutions in helping patients through to recovery and eventually a safe return to their homelands.

Method:  A review of a cross section of these patients presenting to TTH over a four year period has established a range issues impacting the patient and family including language barriers, cultural concerns, border security issues and personal safety on home returns.

Results:  This paper will outline key areas of learning from the review, highlighting the training and education needs of staff working with Papua New Guinea patients and health system improvements to better support this client group.


Julie Watson is Director of Social Work at The Townsville Hospital (TTH).   She is a James Cook University (JCU) graduate and has worked primarily in the areas of disability and health throughout her career.  She has interests in rural and remote health, workforce planning and professional development for Allied Health Professionals.

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