Ten questions for Robbo aka @BiteTheDust

I drove off the lands on Boxing Day 2015 and stayed a couple of nights with Bob Gosford. For my sins he forced me to answer his 10 question quiz. The original post is here.

My pet hate listed in the quiz has certainly come to prominence following the 4 Corners investigation into the running of Indigenous Corporations. Please watch the show “Ripped Off” if you have not already seen it.

Ten questions for Robbo aka @BiteTheDust

In July 2015, Robbo was named the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year for 2015. Robbo has worked for the last ten years as a remote pharmacist in the vast Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia adjoining the NT and South Australian borders and is a tireless advocate for improvements in Aboriginal health.

Robbo, George and Girl outside Wanarn Clinic
Robbo, George and Girl outside Wanarn Clinic

I had a yarn with my good mate Andrew “Robbo” Roberts aka @BiteTheDust over the Christmas break just before he flew out of the country for a few months.

In July 2015, Robbo was named the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Pharmacist of the Year for 2015. Robbo has worked for the last ten years as a remote pharmacist in the vast Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia adjoining the NT and South Australian borders and is a tireless advocate for improvements in Aboriginal health.

At the time of his induction he said that his:
”… biggest thanks go to the people of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands for welcoming me on to their lands and into their lives for over 10 years. I hope this award increases the recognition of the need for pharmacists to be working as part of the health care team for our remote Indigenous Australians.”

The Northern Myth: Tell readers about yourself in ten words.

Robbo: A ten word biography? Desert, bush, medication, literacy, best-practice, education … Dingo, four-wheel drive.

TNM: What makes you happy?

R: Coming out of the bush and having someone make me a fresh coffee that I haven’t had to make myself.

TNM: What makes you angry?

R: The sheer waste you see and the blame-shifting by whitefellas buggering up indigenous organisations.

TNM: Cats, dogs, both or neither?

R: Dogs. The less said about cats the better.

TNM: Sunday morning music?

R: I don’t really listen to music much but out bush where I am you get the church going or some locals playing music somewhere in the community. There is always music in the bush.

TNM: Your Desert Island disc?

R: There are a few bits of music that I always associate with certain things that happen in the past, so some of the old seventies songs, a bit of old Skyhooks or pretty much anything by Madness …

TNM: Where do we go when we are dead?

R: In the ground.

TNM: What do you sing in the shower?

R: Nothing. I’m not a singing person.

TNM: When did you last break the law?

R: Yesterday when I did a u-bolt outside your place without putting the indicators on (laughs) and usually every time I come into town because out bush you don’t worry about white lines or indicators.

TNM: Top-loader or front-loader?

R: Top-loader – out bush that’s all there is!

TNM: Most treasured possession?

R: Well I couldn’t count Girl (my Dingo dog) as a possession. Can’t really answer that one …

TNM: Pen or pencil?

R: Pen! I love a fountain pen. I’m left-handed and I’m a shocking writer so at least it makes me try and have hand-writing that is legible.

TNM: What are you reading in non-fiction?

R: Not much at the moment, all my stuff is packed up. The last book I was caught reading was just released about the life and works of the artists from Wanarn Aged Care called The Wanarn Painters of Place and Time: Old Age Travels in the Tjukurrpa made with the assistance of the arts centre from Warakuna. Some great old artists from the lands have ended up at the aged care centre, including Dr. Mary McLean who is now a West Australian Living Treasure. She doesn’t paint anymore but she is a renowned artist who lived in Kalgoorlie for a number of years and moved back out to country to stop at the Wanarn Aged Care facility.

TNM: What about fiction?

R: Yeah, I’ve been churning through a lot of books. I didn’t read much for ages but I’ve been reading some nasty and forgettable crime fiction recently. Not much of any substance for a while.

Telegrams and Dispensing Schedule 4 Drugs in Emergency Cases

In most Poison’s and Pharmacy Acts and Regulations in Australia there is the ability to give an emergency supply of medication. Within pharmacy it is usually a three day emergency supply. However should the prescriber contact you you can supply and the prescriber must supply a prescription shortly after.

telegram boys

Here is the relevant regulation within the Western Australia’s Poisons Regulations

38 . Dispensing poisons included in Schedule 4 in emergency cases

Where a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, dentist or veterinary surgeon in a case of emergency orally or by telephone or telegram directs the dispensing of a poison included in Schedule 4, he shall forthwith write a prescription complying with the conditions prescribed in regulation 37, mark such prescription to show that it has been given as a confirmation of instructions given by him orally or by telephone or telegram, and despatch such prescription within 24 hours to the person to whom the instructions were given.

[Regulation 38 amended in Gazette 19 Mar 1996 p. 1222; amended by Act No. 9 of 2003 s. 46.]

Now I was going to make a smart alec remark about receiving an old fashioned telegram to urgently dispense a medication. A telegram in the 21st Century? Yeah Right. But it seems they have a niche market. Australia Post still provides a telegram service. I like how you can organise the telegram by phone or over the internet.

When it’s special, send a TELeGRAM. Some messages are too important for a phone call and too special for email.

That’s how Australia Post markets it. But it goes on.

The TELeGRAM combines new age demands with old world charm to offer you a quick, convenient way to send a message that matters.

Create your messages on-line, select from a range of images, and we print and post a hard copy of your special message to any delivery point within Australia.

I love it. I want a doctor to send their local pharmacist a drug order by telegram. And I want a camera there to see the response. I wonder if singing telegrams or gorilla-grams are also legitimate ways for ordering medications in an emergency.

Anniversary of the Death of Mr Ward – Kalgoorlie Miner

We have recently passed the two year anniversary of the death of Mr Ward who died while being transported in a prisoner transport vehicle in summer without air-conditioning. A former prisoner has provided a first hand account of what these vehicles are like to travel in.

The following account is from Kalgoorlie. Miner newspaper. Visit their site and see what happens in Kal.

Kalgoorlie Miner

NATASHA BODDY 28th January 2010

The two-year anniversary of the death in custody of a Goldfields Aboriginal elder has prompted a former prisoner to speak out about the “degrading” conditions in which prisoners were transported.

The former prisoner, who did not want his name published, said the conditions in which some prisoners were transported were “degrading”, “filthy” and “inhumane”.

The man told the Kalgoorlie Miner he was transported in a prison van in similar conditions to those in which 46-year-old father of four Mr Ward died.

Mr Ward was arrested in Laverton on Australia Day 2008 for drink-driving while serving a suspended jail term for other driving offences. He was remanded in custody to face court in Kalgoorlie 360km away and suffered third-degree burns to his stomach following his collapse in the rear of a prison van in which the air conditioning was not working.

prisoner transport van Western Australia

Given only a 600ml bottle of water and a meat pie for the journey, Mr Ward later died from heat stroke on the 42C day.

Speaking out after Mr Ward’s death, the former prisoner said he could understand how Mr Ward died because he was transported in similar conditions.

“When Mr Ward died I could see exactly how it happened,” he said. “The way they transported prisoners was wrong and it was just inhumane.”

The man said when he was remanded in custody to travel from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to a Perth prison, he was transported in the back of a prison van similar to one in which Mr Ward collapsed.

“We were transported from Kalgoorlie to Perth and we were herded into the back like sheep,” he said.

“If it tipped over, you’re a goner.”

He said conditions inside the prison van were “filthy” and “degrading” with prisoners often crammed into metal pods at the back of the vehicle.

“There were 12 of us in the back of the prison van and the smell from the toilet was unbelievable,” he said. “It was a hot day and I dry-retched when I climbed in because of the smell. It hadn’t been cleaned.”

The former inmate said while there was a toilet inside the van, unlike the vehicle in which Mr Ward was transported, it was filthy and many prisoners did not want to use it.

“We were given 600ml of water like Mr Ward and we had wet sandwiches, but the guys didn’t want to drink the water because if they needed the toilet, they would have to expose themselves in front of all the other prisoners,” he said.

Like Mr Ward, the former prisoner said he was never told about a duress alarm installed in the back of the vehicle, nor was he told how to communicate with the guards driving the prison van.

“You don’t get spoken to, there’s no communication,” he said.

He told the Kalgoorlie Miner although the guards had stopped twice during the journey to Perth in August last year, they did not stop to check on prisoners inside.

“THEY stopped two times but didn’t open the back to see how we were,” he said.

He said though the air conditioning was functioning in the prison van in which he was transported, the former prisoner said it was “freezing”.

During the inquest into Mr Ward’s death, State Coroner Alastair Hope heard evidence from Nina Stokoe, one of the guards who transported Mr Ward, who said she assumed the air conditioning in the pod had been working because the driver’s cabin had functioning air conditioning.

Mr Hope also heard evidence staff from the private prisoner transport company, GSL, now G4S, had repeatedly complained about the sub-standard vehicles used to transport prisoners and the air conditioning had been reported faulty at least one month before Mr Ward’s death.

Mr Ward’s inquest also revealed chronic deficiencies in the Government-owned fleet of prison vans were well-known to the Department of Corrective Services and a report had been tabled in Parliament in 2001 following a highly-critical review by a former inspector of custodial services.

Some months later, the Department of Corrective Services announced prisoners would be transported in chartered buses and planes until the fleet of long-haul vehicles was replaced.

Though some changes have been implemented to privatised custodial services and prisoner transport in WA, the former prisoner said he simply hoped prisoners transport would improve in the wake of Mr Ward’s tragic death.

“There has got to be a better way,” he said.

Telehealth in Western Australia

A recent ‘Short Communication‘ to the Rural and Remote Health Journal looked at the results of a very small survey to determine what telehealth needs were most required out bush.

The survey looked at the views of health managers and physicians working in non-metropolitan areas of Western Australia as to what the telehealth priorities were.

While the order of the first four health priorities was different, both groups had the same collective priorities.

Health managers wanted telehealth services (in priority order) for wound care, emergency, psychiatry and ophthalmology. Doctors wanted telehealth mainly for psychiatry (35%), wound care, emergency and ophthalmology.

To have a better sample size I see no reason why remote health services could not have been included. Telehealth is even more important in these areas where in some areas patients can be away for at least a week just to attend a specialist appointment.

In my belief the needs would have been the same, particularly mental health as mental illness is the second largest cause of illness in remote areas of Australia

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