The NT Health Minister John Elferink has written off Indigenous musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu‘s very serious claims of recent hospital mistreatment as a stunt to promote forthcoming music.
Earlier this week, Yunupingu’s manager Mark Grose made public a letter to Royal Darwin Hospital, claiming that they had left the singer to bleed for eight hours.
According to Grose, the hospital made an assumption that Yunupingu was a drinker, when the singer in fact suffers from liver problems related to having Hepatitis B as a child.
At Yunupingu’s request, his private doctor Paul Lawton made the singer’s medical records public this week and later appeared on ABC Darwin radio to discuss the issue alongside Minister Elfernik. Somewhat unbelievably the Minister wrote off the incident as an attempt by Gurrumul’s label Skinnyfish Music to create publicity for Yunupingu’s forthcoming, yet-to-be-announced album.
“The organisation continues to raise issues of racial abuse at about the time when their talent is about to release albums or is on the touring circuit,” Mr Elferink said.
Dr. Lawton immediately retorted these claims saying, “That is incorrect from my point of view. I don’t stand for this sort of statement.”
He further noted that he had no affiliation with Skinnyfish Music and was simply acting on behalf of Yunupingu. He also called Grose’s accusations of “racial profiling” at Royal Darwin Hospital “reasonable”.
“We know that racial profiling happens at RDH (Royal Darwin Hospital) because of nationally published data. We know that it happens at NT hospitals. We know it happens right around Australia,” he said.
“This is a broader issue. We need to have that discussion about how we can improve care for Indigenous Australians so they receive the same level of care as non-Indigenous Australians.”
The Medical records released at the approval of Yunupingu show that during a hospital visit in March, the hospital documented alcohol use.
“That assumption was made when Gurrumul was very sick and unable to speak for himself,” he said.
“That information was then transcribed to subsequent admissions without checking the relevant information with Gurrumul or other people.”
The medical records state “EtOH liver disease” with EtOH being a medical term for ethyl alcohol.
“Those words ‘Gurrumul is a drinker’ do not appear in his medical records, that’s true. How else do you get alcohol-related liver disease?” Dr. Lawton concluded.
For the record Yunupingu has had three very successful records without any publicity stunts. All his albums have made it to number three on the ARIA Charts with his last The Gospel Album nabbing an ARIA Award for Best World Music Album.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has since said he has requested a full report into the incident.
Hospital system fails Gurrumul, he almost dies, politician calls it a publicity stunt https://t.co/nSaeoKGiDb
— Urthboy (@urthboy) April 6, 2016
It's not that people are racist, but that systems (incl health systems) are not designed for minorities #Gurrumul
— Paul Lawton (@pauldlawton) April 6, 2016