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Critical illness and its impact on the Aboriginal people of the top end of the Northern Territory

Intensive Care Unit, Royal Darwin Hospital, Darwin, Northern Territory


The Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) services a relatively large and geographically remote Aboriginal population who account for 45% of intensive care unit admissions. Critical illness in the Aboriginal population is different from the non-Aboriginal population of the “Top End” of the Northern Territory. The critically ill Aboriginal patient is younger, has more chronic health problems and a higher severity of illness at presentation. The city and the hospital environment are foreign to many Aboriginal patients retrieved from remote communities and this adds to the stress of the critical illness. English is a second, third or fourth language for many Aboriginal people from remote communities and strategies must be put in place to ensure informed consent and effective communication are achieved. Despite the increased severity of illness and complexity, the Royal Darwin Hospital ICU achieves the same survival rates for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients.

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