Wuchopperen Health Service: Leading in the fight against Covid

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wuchopperen Health Service swung into action to protect the community.

Within weeks, health workers at the Cairns-based Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation were screening temperatures, conducting COVID-19 tests at an on-site Respiratory Clinic and delivering supplies to vulnerable Elders across the region.

Wuchopperen is now one of the region’s leading vaccination hubs, with nine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers trained up to be part of the clinic’s vaccination team.

Wuchopperen CEO Dania Ahwang welcomed new legislation which allowed health workers to administer the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Having health workers be part of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout helps us to deliver on our health worker-led model of care as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led health service and protect our community,” Dania said.

“It’s crucial that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to culturally appropriate health services. It breaks down barriers for our community to keep healthy and well.”

While the clinic has only had supplies of AstraZeneca so far, Wuchopperen has recently been approved to administer the Pfizer vaccine, with stock set to arrive by late July.

“We are providing COVID-19 vaccinations as part of our holistic, integrated health service model and are working with our community, as there’s been quite a bit of uncertainty around getting vaccinated,” Dania said.

“Our clinic has been administering about 15 – 20 vaccines each day, but so far only a very small percentage of people being vaccinated have been Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, so it’s really important that our health workers continue to talk to our clients around the importance of being vaccinated.”

Pictured (Left to Right): CEO Dania Ahwang, Kenith, Tamenna, Mel and Sarah.

Dania, who had the AstraZeneca jab earlier this year, said Board Members and staff have been leading from the front by getting the vaccine early.

Our health workers and Board members got their vaccines early and shared why they believe it’s so important to protect our community. We’ve found that’s helped to reassure clients,” Dania said.

Providing transport to appointments is one of the many ways Wuchopperen has managed to break down barriers to accessing health services.

With over 60 per cent of staff who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, Wuchopperen delivers a holistic range of services to the community, including primary health care, allied health such as diabetes management and hearing health, women’s, children and maternal health and in-home support. They also deliver a range of outreach services including sexual health, social and emotional wellbeing, parenting programs and child and family wellbeing, including a foster and kinship care service.

“We look after people right from prenatal care  right through to aged care. Everyone has a place here,” Dania said.

“We’ve shown that an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led model of care is what works best, and we’re proud to deliver culturally safe programs and services to our community.”

Wuchopperen is an  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisation providing comprehensive primary health care services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the Cairns region. Wuchopperen began in 1979 and has primary health care facilities in Manoora and Edmonton, as well as child and family services covering from Tully to the Cape, working towards the vision of “Improving quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.”