Screen time success for Saibai Island

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Saibai Island residents Gladys Dau and her son Samuel having a regular paediatric appointment via telehealth.

Saibai Island residents Gladys Dau and her son Samuel having a regular paediatric appointment via telehealth.

Samuel Dau and his mum Gladys would need to take three plane flights over two days to see a specialist if not for Telehealth.

The 11-year-old attended the Saibai Island Primary Health Care Centre last month for his video link appointment on the video link. He was one of six children on the island who was there.

It was perfect attendance for the clinic in what can be challenging for health workers in remote areas. Attendance is often less than half.

Dr Lauren Kromoloff is a paediatrician who works from Thursday Island Hospital. She said it was good to see a patient in person for the first time, but Telehealth was helpful for check-ups.

“I think Telehealth is vital for most follow-up appointments," she said. "We don't need to examine patients every time we see them,” she said.

“When you diagnose children with diseases like acute rheumatic fever or diabetes, the family gets a lot of information. It is helpful to follow-up with Telehealth to see how they're going and hear questions from the family.”

Dr Kromoloff said she travelled to the outer islands of Saibai, Badu, Yorke, Mabuiag and Boigu. But clinicians used Telehealth to check in on patients who could not attend their appointments, or whose cases are a concern.

She said if a community and local health workers supported Telehealth it was a success. Saibai was a great example, she said.

Mrs Dau said both Samuel and her daughter had used Telehealth for some time.

“Samuel likes it,” she said. “Just to be able to see the doctor on video. It's an easy way to communicate.”

She said they were grateful for the service given their remote location. Saibai is 140km north of Thursday Island and closer to Papua New Guinea than Australia.

Read more about telehealth.