Cairns doctors in the dark over TB plan in Torres Strait

DOCTORS say they have once again been left in the dark by plans to control tuberculosis in the Torres Strait.

The Federal and State Governments have released several key actions to increase awareness of TB and prevent the spread of the disease.

It comes as TB services in the Strait and Cape York regions will be transferred to local regional control from July 1.

The new initiatives include:

■ Free TB testing for all residents of at-risk islands, and those identified in the cluster sites of Iama, Saibai and Boigu.

■ Multilingual printed material for residents about TB, its spread, symptoms and treatment

■ Screening key transport personnel, such as Qantas Link staff

■ Spending existing $1.1 million funding on refurbishing a dwelling to provide urgently needed extra accommodation for Queensland Health nurses and health workers.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the program would lead to a comprehensive understanding of the current status of TB cases in the Torres Strait, as well as give locals greater knowledge about the disease and its challenges.

“I’ve been speaking with Minister (Peter) Dutton and he’s agreed to work with the State Government on this issue, acknowledging the seriousness of the situation and ensuring that we take every action to minimise any risk to the Torres Strait island community,’’ he said.

“I’ll continue to work very closely with Queensland Health and the incoming Health Minister, Sussan Ley, to ensure that there is a level of transparency in working with the community that has not been seen in the past.”

Cook MP David Kempton said carrying out of widespread TB testing for residents would work well as one of the first tasks for the new health board in the Torres Strait.

“We’ll be moving quickly to make sure that the testing and other initiatives are implemented early into the New Year,’’ he said.

Medicos earlier this month complained of being taken by surprise by the news that control of TB services would be taken over by the newly appointed Cape and Torres Hospital and Health Service.

Together Union Cairns organiser Dr Sandy Donald said there was no input from clinicians into the new initiatives, as far as he knew.

“This appears to be two governments working on a media release with no involvement of clinicians,’’ he said.

“There’s also no suggestion that people currently working in health in the Torres Strait will have any say.”

Queensland’s TB centre’s services were dismantled by the department and “devolved” around the state about two years ago.

Source: Cairns Post