Medicines Australia and the Western Desert Dialysis Truck

The Purple House’s (Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku) dialysis truck has been a long time coming. But the wait is worth it.

Cross border issues with funding and the locations to where patients in the tri-state (WA/SA/NT) area have to move for dialysis means members of remote communities can be a long way from home.

This dialysis truck can move to any central Australian Aboriginal community to allow some dialysis patients from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia to return home to country and spend time with family.

Despite the benefits this truck will bring I am a little annoyed by how the funding for this truck is portrayed.

There was no government money involved but that didn’t stop the politicians coming out for the handover of the vehicle to this Indigenous owned and controlled dialysis service.

But that isn’t what annoys me.

The money came from the pharmaceutical industry group Medicines Australia. And here is where it starts to annoy me.

Western desert dialysis truck

In all the reports including ABC TV news, Medicines Australia press release and even this article by the head of the WDNWPT applaud the generosity of the industry in donating the money for this $340,000 dialysis truck.

The reality is that it isn’t a donation where members have said “oh this is a good idea – lets chip in to help”. It is funded by the collection of fines from when Medicines Australia members (drug companies) break their own guidelines when spruiking their drugs.

If drug companies are thought to have breached the Code of Conduct they are asked to front the monitoring committee where if found guilty are fined what I consider to be peanuts for a large multinational company. The fines in 2010-2011 (see pages 11-12), totalled $160,000.

So drug companies continually breach their code of conduct, pay a fine which their industry body collects and then “donates” making the industry appear wonderful.

As Jarrad Hall commented on Twitter

I wonder if we little people can do that. I feel like donating to charity, I might go speeding later

I’d prefer some openness and honesty in saying where the money comes from.

But should Medicines Australia be allowed to hang on to these fines at all?

Western Desert Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku (WDNWPT) win the Team Excellence category in the HESTA Primary Health Care Awards

Congratulations to Sarah Brown and her team at Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku (making all our familes well) or as it is known – The Purple House – on winning this award.

“Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku” means “Making all our familes well” is owned and managed by the members of Kintore (NT) and Kiwirrkurra (WA) communities. It’s aim is to bring respite haemodialysis to remote areas to allow for respite visits back to country and family.

As well as the purple house in Alice Springs they have set up a respite house in Kintore and a mobile dialysis bus is nearly complete.

You can learn more about them at
The bush garden at the Purple House was also featured on Gardening Australia earlier in the year.

Related Post: Cross Border Health: Renal Disease

Cross Border Health: Renal Disease

It made the news nationwide when the Northern Territory banned those from adjoining border areas from going onto dialysis in Alice Springs no matter what family and tribal connections to the place they may have. Alice Springs has the largest dialysis unit in the southern Hemisphere.

The catalyst for the publicity and hopefully some action was the case of the famous artist Patrick Tjungurrayi from the Western Australia border community of Kiwirrkurra.

Kiwirrkurra is 200kms west of Kintore and is serviced from Alice Springs. There is no ability to get patients back from Kalgoorlie or Perth to Kiwirrkurra if they are evacuated west instead of east to Alice Springs without transiting through Alice Springs.

Renal patients in the border regions of South and Western Australia had to make the hard decision. Go to Adelaide or Perth far away from family and country or to stay on country and die. But is the wait any less in other capitals? My understanding is there is a wait list of over 40 for access to dialysis in Perth. Would you travel thousands of kilometres from home. To wait. And wait.

The stand by Patrick Tjungurrayi seems to have forced some action. The ABC reports that at the last Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) meeting an agreement on cross-border dialysis was reached. I assume this means South Australia and Western Australia will pay for access. Despite the statement saying an agreement has been reached nothing has been signed. So there will be further delays until money starts flowing, extra facilities built, dialysis machines and staff ready to go.

A few days ago the Northern Territory Government released an extra $120 million to put into the health system.

  • $9.5 million for 95 nurses.
  • $7 million to run Darwin’s new cancer centre
  • $4 million for more staff at Gove Hospital.
  • $5 million Expanded dialysis facilities in Katherine and Tennant Creek
  • I don’t know where the rest is going but I think if they were expanding real services in Alice they would trumpet it as often and as loudly as they could.

    The artists of Papunya Tula many years ago painted their hearts and souls out and and raised $1million dollars auctioning their artworks to set up a dialysis machine in Kintore for people to visit home from Alice Springs. The Kiwirrkurra artists are part of this organisation and many donated paintings for the auction.

    As well as the chair and space in Kintore the “Purple House” in Alice Springs was purchased and the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku (or the Western Desert Dialysis Mob) came into being. Kiwirrkurra people play a large role in this. But if the NT government’s decision stood it would mean they would have no access to it and no way to get home to country and family.

    Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku have received an increase in funding from the Federal government as well as $500 000 from Medicines Australia. This will allow them to kit out a dialysis truck to move into various communities and bring people home in the tri-state border (NT/WA/SA) for visits. It sort of makes a mockery of state borders.

    I look forward to a signed agreement between South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory so dialysis services can be increased in Alice Springs.

    To see the impact of end stage renal disease on remote Indigenous Australians take a look at the Australian Story program on Mandawuy Yunupingu

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