The Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub, which was opened officially in May this year, is providing a much needed service in Melbourne filling the gap in healthcare faced by asylum seekers and refugees when they arrive in Australia without income or access to Medicare.
Since June, Cabrini Health has provided medical care to asylum seekers attending the Hub. They come from countries far and wide including Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Ethiopia. Tracey Cabrié, Centre Manager says that the Hub provides a weekly GP clinic and a weekly psychiatry clinic and that clients undergo nursing assessments on the other days.
“We were able to employ quite quickly, within a month we had two nurses and an admin assistant,” says Tracey. “While getting the core team together, we’ve been promoting our service to GP networks, referring agencies and the broader asylum seeker and refugee sector.”
The hub’s medical clinics are provided by a pro bono workforce who is passionate about working with asylum seekers. So far, three psychiatrists and eight GPs have been accredited to work at the hub, with another five who are interested and currently going through the credentialing process.
The hub operates on a nurse-led model of care for assessment, triaging and case management. When clients are referred to the hub, the nurse triages them and prioritizes their health needs, works closely with the GP with respect to the care required and facilitates referrals to other community health services such as dental or obstetric care.
Bernadette Flanagan, Practice Nurse, joined the team at the beginning of June and is passionate about the nurse-led model.
“First, we undertake a refugee health assessment, and we find out as much about their current and past medical history as we can,” says Bernadette. “Our patients may have been in camps or detention and many do not have medical paperwork from their past. We get an idea of where they have come from, their current health needs and what is important initially for them. After they are assessed by a nurse, they are seen by a GP to manage a priority list of their health needs.”
Cabrini is supporting asylum seekers seeking Australia’s protection. At the moment, clients come via referral from caseworkers or agencies that are working with asylum seekers. The priority of access is no Medicare card and no income. We expect more clients to come once word about the hub spreads in the asylum seeker community. “We’ve established a pharmaceutical program with Brunswick Pharmacy, which enables clients with no income to access medications at no cost to them. Clients are provided with pharmacy waivers and Cabrini is invoiced for the cost,” said Tracey.