Dr Mary Wicks MBBS (Hon 1), MPHC, PGCertClinUS, FRACP
Specialist Physician, Alice Springs Hospital

Dr Mary Wicks is a Specialist Physician at the Alice Springs Hospital in Central Australia.

Her longstanding area of interest is Aboriginal Health, especially as it pertains to the remote desert populations of Central Australia and surrounds. She is particularly interested in the Cultural aspects of health and how the Western Health System can be responsive to the needs of Aboriginal people.

Mary provides a Specialist Outreach Service to the local Aboriginal Health Service (Congress) and is part of the re-establishment of General Physician outreach to Remote Central Australian Communities.

In 2015 she won both the Northern Territory and National Clinical Educator of the Year awards.

She is a faltering speaker of the Aboriginal Pitjanjatjarra language!!


These feet are made for walking….Take Own Leave at Alice Springs Hospital

Take Own Leave or TOL is a well -worn expression in Central Australian (CA) healthcare. It describes patients admitted to hospital who simply up and leave without Heath Care Workers (HCWs) knowledge. This implies a different level of patient risk than Leaving (or Discharge) Against Medical Advice (LAMA), where HCWs have an opportunity to problem solve issues with the patient and organise continued health care in the community setting.

TOL is nearly an exclusively Aboriginal patient experience in Alice Springs Hospital (ASH). It has been a recognised issue for decades. While the TOL rates have decreased from a nadir of 25% of hospital separations they remain extraordinarily high at 6-10%.

Why do Aboriginal people TOL from ASH? Does this happen elsewhere?  Why don’t our patients like us? What can be done? Some issues I will explore in this presentation will be;
  • Data and literature relevant to the CA setting
  • Cultural dissonance and communication failure
  • How the Central Australian Health Service has responded to the issue of TOL
  • What more could be done to meet the health care needs of our Aboriginal people in Central Australia.