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Central Australian head of renal dialysis service named Australia’s top nurse
Chief executive of Western Desert Dialysis Sarah Brown was the only Northern Territory entrant in the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards.
She works at the Purple House, which provides dialysis services to remote patients in the NT and Western Australia.
“The services we provide mean that people can live in their remote communities and receive dialysis treatment on-country,” Ms Brown told ABC Alice Springs local radio.
She did not prepare an acceptance speech ahead of winning the title, saying being the centre of attention at a national awards ceremony was her worst nightmare.
“I don’t drink, I don’t like fuss, I don’t wear makeup or dress in high-heel shoes, I can’t dance,” Ms Brown said.
“But to win this award and bring it back to the Territory is fantastic.”
Ms Brown is a qualified nurse but is not a trained dialysis nurse, but said she still loved working with patients.
“I do spend quite a bit of time in Alice at the Purple House and get to use my assessment skills and pop a few boils and cut some toenails and pluck some chins and generally be a nursey type,” she said.
“I guess the role of nursing is pretty broad these days, isn’t it?”
‘You can’t teach your grandkids about culture via Skype’
The Purple House started 14 years ago in Ms Brown’s lounge room, but now employs 50 people and services more than eight remote communities throughout the NT and WA.
“This is about Aboriginal people finding their own solutions to their health issues,” she said.
The mobile dialysis unit is important because it means people can stay on country and receive treatment rather than travelling hundreds of kilometres away from their families for treatment in regional and urban centres.
“You can’t teach your grandkids about culture via Skype, or from a hospital bed in Alice Springs,” Ms Brown said.
Indigenous people are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to have indicators of chronic kidney disease.
“There’s no community that’s not touched by this, it is a real tangible threat to cultural continuity,” Ms Brown said.
“If those elders aren’t there then they can’t pass that knowledge along.”
Sarah Brown said the prize money of $10,000 would be used to help fund services to treat patients in South Australia.
“We’re working really hard to fundraise to build our first South Australian dialysis service, in the Pukatja community,” she said.
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