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The National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre has supported South Australia’s health department with a mobile x-ray machine for tuberculosis screening for school students and community members across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY) in the far north of the state.

Misha Richards is a SA Health radiographer and a member of the Australian Medical Assistance Team, helped the SA TB Services team conduct screening by using the mobile machine.

She also provided mentorship and field support for local healthcare staff.

Ms Richards says the secondary machine from NCCTRC was a critical piece of equipment needed to test as many people in the community as possible. “

TB Services do regular screening of school children, especially those newly immigrated to Australia, as this age bracket and the under-five year olds are the most vulnerable to severe health outcomes from TB,” she says.

The additional x-ray machine meant that two schools from Pipalyatjara and Pukatja communities could be screened simultaneously.

“It’s always wonderful to see the use of NCCTRC equipment and personnel in effective health management, no matter the location of those in need,” Ms Richards says.

“This project supports the APY Lands and the Anangu people to access the same level of healthcare available in the cities, and provides further opportunity for SA Health and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation to come together with community to work on strategies in facing communicable disease,

“It was a particularly special experience as we were able to share resources, knowledge and experiences from a previous deployment to assist with TB screening in Timor-Leste, and carry this over to continue an effective health response domestically.”

Ms Richards also helped with a TB screening project in Timor- Leste in late 2022 in partnership with the Menzies School of Health Research and Timor-Leste’s National Tuberculosis Program, using the same mobile x-ray machine.

“SA Health Aboriginal Public Health had learned of my experience with the prevalence survey, and when it looked like there were more TB cases on the Lands, they got in touch to hear of my experience and learn what had been done previously.

“X-rays were only used for individuals who had a positive response to a skin test, and for those cases who were being followed up after some time on treatment.

“This differed from the project in Timor-Leste, which provided screening of the broader population, but was due to the age of the population being screened. Further screening in communities will use x-ray as a primary screening tool.”

Ms Richards says the deployment helping SA Health was particularly special as it demonstrated the commitment AUSMAT has not only to our Indo-Pacific neighbours, but also within our national community.

“It has been wonderful to see the level of community engagement while providing screening services in Pipalyatjara and Pukatja, and witnessing the whole operation embody a community led approach to Aboriginal health,” she says.

“I’m really proud to work with AUSMAT and NCCTRC.

“This experience has demonstrated the core values of the organisation, ensuring the community is put first in all health responses. Providing the mobile x-ray and additional resources has been a continuation of this sentiment.”