REMOTE AREA PODIATRY
From 2009 until 2012 inclusive Allan travelled to a number of remote communities in East Arnhem Land — namely Numbulwar, Gapuwiyak, Ramingining, Milingimbi and Yirrkala. These communities are all reached through Nhulunbuy at the Top End of the Northern Territory. Allan made two to three trips a year to assist the NT Health Department in providing podiatry care to residents of these outlying communities. He travelled by light aircraft to most of the remote areas except Yirrkala which is only fifteen minutes by road from Nhulunbuy. As well as providing podiatry care, Allan was also able to help the nurses and staff at the centres to continue basic foot care during his absence. Very few podiatrists travel to remote areas in the Northern Territory or Western Australia and so limited care is available to these communities.
In 2013 Allan ceased to do consultations in remote communities of East Arnhem Land in order to concentrate on his own podiatry business and to also enhance the education and promotion of foot care in the Northern Territory. He presents at two Footcare Conferences a year to promote and assist with Northern Territory foot care - one in Alice Springs and the other in Darwin.
TOP END FOOT CARE - EVERY PROBLEM UNDER THE SUN
Numbulwar is a community of approximately 1,000 residents, a one and a half hour flight south of Gove on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The town is set amongst the sand hills and is hot and dusty. It has a school, supermarket (milk $3.25/lt and petrol $2.80/lt), a health clinic but no doctor. The clinic has several Aboriginal health workers whoa re truly terrific. The non-indigenous staff
In both Gapuwiyak and Numbulwar Allan worked with the Chronic Disease team and we worked through the Diabetic patient list. Whilst Allan screened the lower limb and dealt with the thick toenails, corns and leather like calluses, the Chronic disease nurse looked at
are also fantastic, living in the community for several years at a time. You have to be committed to work here. The money is not the carrot. The nearest town of any size, Katherine, is several hundred kilometres drive away. The staff at the clinic are very talented with broad skills. Whilst the normal health checks go on during the day, there is a never-ending stream of patients who have chest pain, spear wounds as well as skin infections and headaches. It is just like any emergency department at any hospital except without the back up of fancy gear and specialised staff. Even a simple x-ray requires chartering an aircraft to fly the patient to Gove and back. Cultural mews are complex and confusing to visitors.
The Indigenous people have lived in the region for many thousands of years. Whilst they may not be known to most of us outside of East Arnhem, the band Yothu Yindi hail from here. Unfortunately, many health problems exist and one of the greatest chronic diseases facing these communities is Diabetes.
The East Arnhem region is a vast area. Travel by road is mostly restricted to the dry season (May to October) and the distances are huge over the unsealed roads. Fortunately Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) provides a heavily subsidised flight service across the Top End. The aircraft used are mainly Airvans to provide a sort of air taxi service. They are built for service, not comfort. There is no air conditioning and sitting in the cockpit on the runway before takeoff when it is 33 degrees C with 98% humidity is an experience.
Between 2009 and 2012 Allan travelled to the East Arnhem Region in the Northern Territory to provide podiatry services in the remote Aboriginal community of Numbulwar and Gapuwiyak. He had first visited these communities in July 2009 and the response was so positive that he was invited back. Blood Sugar Levels, weight and other risk factors. We aimed to have an Aboriginal Health Worker with us and all three of us then worked on an education program to try and reduce the risk factors in each Diabetic patient. It was also my aim to train the Health Workers in podiatry skills as it is important to leave skills behind for ongoing care.