National recognition for NT testing program 

Flinders University’s Northern Territory Point-of-Care Testing program, delivering rapid on-site pathology testing across 90 remote communities since 2008, has been recognised for its efforts in the community being joint winner of the Outstanding Engagement for Research Impact at this year’s Engagement Australia Excellence Awards.

Delivered in collaboration with NT Health and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, with funding from NT Health, the program performs more than 3,000 pathology tests each month, with the point-of-care testing devices delivering results within 2-10 minutes to guide patient triage, clinical management and diagnose a variety of illnesses, including sepsis and heart attack.

The award was presented at a virtual event. Image: Engagement Australia

Jointly awarded alongside Edith Cowan University’s ‘Better Beginnings’ family literacy program with the State Library of Western Australia, the award recognises ‘excellence in research and development activity that makes a substantial difference to the community, or Australian prosperity, undertaken jointly by researchers in tertiary education institutes and partners in the community, business and industry’.

Other esteemed finalists in the category included the Peter Doherty Institute for its COVID-19 modelling, Curtin University’s gender equity program and Deakin University’s physical literacy research.

“We are immensely grateful to take out this award,” says Dr Brooke Spaeth, Point-of-Care Coordinator for the Northern Territory Point-of-Care Testing Program.

“The program is able to deliver improved clinical outcomes and equity of care to those residing in remote communities, while also being culturally safe, and it’s wonderful to have the team at Flinders University, and our key project partners NT Health and AMSANT, recognised for all that has been achieved.

“Through the continued leadership of Co-Directors Professor Mark Shephard and Dr Susan Matthews at Flinders University’s International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing we are hopeful of expanding the program across Australia, and this award will help to shine light on such a goal.”

Program Clinical Advisor, Dr Rodney Omond from NT Health added POCT provides clinicians reliable information to triage acute presentations for evacuations from remote communities, or to change the management of chronic diseases.

“Our research provides the evidence on how to use these POCT tools in the best possible ways,” says Dr Omond.

The NT Point-of-Care Testing Program team (l-r): Lauren Duckworth, Dr Susan Matthews, Dr Brooke Spaeth, Dr Emma de Courcy-Ireland and Professor Mark Shephard

Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint congratulated Dr Spaeth and the team on the award, acknowledging the considerable impact the program has had on the Northern Territory.

“This is a vital service that Flinders University is proud to have assisted in delivering,” says Professor Saint.

“Without the program, remote patients would face waiting times of several days or weeks, or removal from their community to access safe health management. The savings to the Northern Territory government are estimated at approximately $21 million per year.

“This work is a wonderful part of Flinders University’s continued contribution to rural and remote communities in the Northern Territory, an engagement that began over 20 years ago, and I thank Engagement Australia for recognising the team’s efforts.”

Formerly known as the BHERT Awards, Engagement Australia’s Excellent Awards identify and celebrate the transformative engagement activities undertaken by universities that demonstrate far-reaching impact and innovation in Australia and New Zealand.

A full list of the winners can be found here:

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Alumni College of Medicine and Public Health Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute Flinders NT International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing