A health famil of nine experienced the wonder of Red Centre medicine in Alice Springs and Darwin recently.

There’s urban medicine, there’s rural medicine, and then there’s ‘Red Centre’ medicine. This isn’t an academic term quite yet, but it’s certainly deserving of its own category, especially as the doctors of central Australia operate on cases completely different to those of its city and bush coutnterparts.
The extremities of heat and distance make Alice Springs’ doctors incredibly resourceful, and their knowledge is an insightful highlight to medical meetings held in the territory. Along with this hub of knowledge, it also holds some incredible facilities such as the largest renal treatment unit in the southern hemisphere.
In early October, the Northern Territory’s Convention Bureau (NTCB) hosted nine medical PCOs on a famil to show the exceptional skills and capabilities of the territory from Alice Springs to Darwin. It showcased not only the region’s wealth of medical knowledge and the ground-breaking research that is being conducted, but passionate suppliers. The journey spanned the Albert Namatjira Gallery of the Alice to Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin.
The health famil coincided with the near decade anniversary of the Bali bombings, during which the War & Disaster Forum was being hosted by the Royal Darwin Hospital, at the Darwin Convention Centre. After the bombings of October 12, 2002, the Sanglah Hospital of Indonesia could not handle the influx of victims, and the Royal Darwin Hospital stepped in, receiving, treating and stabilising 63 victims.
The famil attendees saw some of the innovative equipment that contributes to saving the lives of many victims who arrive from disasters and accidents, including a portable hospital which is erected in war zones, and a bus converted to transport up to eight casualties from airports or disasters to hospitals.
Attendees were glowing about the famil experience, appreciating everything from the insightful talks by Dr Jacob Jacobs and Dr Sajir Cherian in Alice Springs, to the tour of SKYCITY Darwin’s glamorous new extension, and the starlit dinner at Pee Wee’s at the Point. One attendee said they found the famil to be a great opportunity to see a region where service providers were enthusiastic and happy to think outside of the square.

the purple house – alice springs

Alice Springs has some of the highest rates of kidney disease and renal failure in the world. The facilities established to address these problems are world-class both in technical capability and community commitment.
The Purple House provides vital treatment to those with renal failure. It is a place where patients can come for life-prolonging dialysis that flushes waste and excess water from the blood, supplementing the kidney’s inability to do so. Arriving at The Purple House, the NTCB’s excitement to see ‘The Purple Truck’ parked out the front hinted at its significance. The incredible truck travels thousands of kilometres to deeply rural indigenous communities, allowing patients to visit relatives back home, and delivering dialysis treatment to people who cannot come to Alice Springs.
Nurses Debbie Lillis and Helen Adams told us the story of how The Purple House came to be, explaining that the motivation stemmed from the impacts felt on communities when elders were in hospital for long periods while on dialysis – some as long as five years. Aboriginal artists of the Kintore community banded together selling their work and raising $1 million. However, that was not enough to cover the purchase of the house, medical equipment, running costs and so on that were required. After a long and hard push for government funding assistance, The Purple House came to fruition in 2008. Famil attendees experienced the benefits of patients being able to receive dialysis in The Purple House rather than hospital, along with the stability in their health when visiting relatives back home and not missing dialysis thanks to The Purple Truck.

menzies research centre – darwin

After a presentation on the incredible work the Menzies Research Centre is hosting, such as an in-depth study on decreasing indigenous smoking, a tour through its labs showed off some of the best facilities in the country for analysing bacteria. The Menzies Research Centre is funded by medical grants and is a leader in indigenous and tropical health. It has recently had a respiratory health unit commissioned and a new team will soon be focusing on indigenous cancer.
A quick insight into the ground-breaking new machines at the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre, and a tour through the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre illustrated exactly how advanced Darwin is in the field of medicine.

royal flying doctor service – alice springs

The centre of the Royal Flying Doctor Service has just seen an upgrade. Within its luxurious new theatre the famil group watched a short and incredibly touching film on the work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, with words from people who have been saved by those working in the organisation. Entertaining can be done in the museum where guests can climb into one of the planes, or, like our lucky group, enjoy a starlit dinner in front of the old offices.

Fun stuff

il lido – darwin

Oh il Lido, when will you open a Sydney counterpart? This incredible waterfront restaurant is just a few steps away from the convention centre – not that it needs the help getting bookings. The suave restaurant is always buzzing and the food speaks for itself. The baked eggs with spicy nduja, morcilla sausage, provolone cheese and ciabatta toast would be crowned Darwin’s Best Breakfast, if ever there were a competition. iL Lido has also just started serving in the light-and-airy meeting spaces above the restaurant so delegates can hold catered meetings. Simply add alcohol and it can magically transform into a private party. The gourmet canapé menu features the likes of miniature pulled duck paninis with apple and pear rémoulade, and roast scallops with caramelised pork sausage served in the shell.

alice springs desert park

The Alice Springs Desert Park took the group from Red Centre medicine to bush medicine. Facing the rocky ranges that are stained with red and fringed with green, a ranger explained the incredible history that fostered the foundational knowledge of bush medicine. Over 16 years the area has been cleared of foreign species and returned to its natural state. It now hosts bird shows and nocturnal tours. Corporate groups can even contribute to its desert farm which it is working to build up in an effort to lower its own carbon footprint while feeding its native residents.