Renal (Kidney) diseases in Indigenous Australians result in a substantial number of hospitalisations and high health care expenditure. Despite all Australians being entitled to health rights, as set out in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights (2008), renal health is a significant area where health disparities exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Northern Territory Renal Service Strategy, 2017-2022). A human rights-based approach is used for this research to understand the causes of renal health disparities.
This qualitative study aims to explore the extent to which Indigenous health rights are recognised and realised, as envisaged by the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, in the context of renal care, in the Northern Territory. The study is carried out in two parts: document analysis of renal health policies guiding service delivery, and interviews with Indigenous renal patients and renal nurses.
The early findings indicate there are significant gaps in the three main attributes of health rights: access to safe and quality care, communication and participation in care, and cultural safety of care. Access to safe and quality health care, as a fundamental right, is not realised in terms of availability, acceptability and accessibility of renal care for Indigenous patients in the NT. Lack of open, clear, two-way communication, between Indigenous patients and health professionals, affect all aspects of renal care; and cultural safety and cultural respect are not an integral part of health care delivery.
The findings will inform recommendations to support the recognition and realisation of health rights for Indigenous patients in renal care policy and practice.