A medical team from Cabrini Health banded together to perform life-saving brain surgery on a single mother from Papua New Guinea.
In March 2018, the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub [in Australia] experienced a surge in demand with a 100 per cent increase in the number of referrals for the month.
A higher than average number of referrals were also received in April and May.
Most of these referrals are for asylum seekers receiving basic support through the status resolution support services (SRSS) program while awaiting the outcome of their application for protection.
The reason for the increase? Changes to the SRSS program vulnerability criteria have been announced, which will result in withdrawal of the basic living allowance (89 per cent of Newstart), casework support, and trauma and torture counselling from anyone assessed as ‘job-ready’. Being job-ready is not the same as being able to find employment.
Many Australians are looking for work. When English is not your first language, you have had little or interrupted education, you have no employment history and only temporary work rights, you have serious barriers to employment success. Add to that the significant physical and mental health issues many asylum seekers suffer, and employment is unlikely.
How will they will pay their rent and feed themselves if they have no income?
We stand for compassionate treatment for asylum seekers.
Sue Grasby RN, a nurse manager at Cabrini Malvern, has been awarded Catholic Health Australia’s (CHA) annual Nurse of the Year Award for 2017.
According to Professor Lee Boyd, Cabrini’s Executive Director of Nursing and the Cabrini Institute, Ms Grasby is a strong patient advocate. “I am thrilled that a Cabrini nurse has been awarded CHA Nurse of the Year,” said Professor Boyd. “She represents all nurses at Cabrini who work so hard every day to provide exceptional care.”
The award recognises Ms Grabsy’s volunteer contributions to healthcare services in Papua New Guinea (PNG). “She and her husband lead No Roads Health expeditions, which focus on providing healthcare for villages in PNG with no road access,” said Professor Boyd. “This commitment is undertaken during her annual leave and at considerable personal expense.”
The award includes a cash prize of $5000 for use in supporting a program or for professional development and a trophy.
Ms Grasby says she is committed to improving the health of the PNG people and engaging in health promotion to prevent illness in remote areas.
The road to PNG
Ms Grasby’s involvement with providing health outreach services in PNG was sparked when she trekked the Kokoda Track with family and friends in 2010. Over eight days, the group passed through many small villages and interacted with local people. The experience provided an understanding of the isolation along the track and lack of access to basic health care and medical treatment.
“I felt the need to respond to the chronic lack of health care that is being suffered by our close neighbours and which we take for granted in our country,” she said. “This experience affirmed my desire to give back and try to make a difference to these people who live in remote villages and lack so much in both access and availability of healthcare.”
In 2014, Ms Grasby began volunteering with No Roads Health. Together with a team of nurses, she returned to PNG to provide healthcare to those most in need. The team travelled by foot, car and boat to six remote coastal villages where many of the people they met had never seen a healthcare worker before let alone a nurse from Australia.
Since then, she has returned to PNG twice a year with No Roads Health, and now works as the clinical leader of the teams who volunteer their time and self-fund their trips. Small teams of health professionals, mainly nurses, support health needs within these remote communities, helping people maintain good health, and relieving health problems where possible. “During my most recent trip in March 2017, more than 640 patients attended our six clinics,” she said.
A trusted presence
During her health outreach trips to PNG, Ms Grasby seeks to support and mentor local PNG health care workers and village health assistants who visit remote villages with the team.
“Our clinics see many children with ear conditions related to life near the ocean, tropical leg ulcers compounded by heat and humidity, and many illnesses and disease processes that can be fatal in these remote areas but would be resolved with a simple visit to a GP in Australia,” said Ms Grasby.
Some villagers will often walk or canoe long distances, up to eight hours, to visit the clinics and the team visits elderly or dying people in their homes if they cannot attend.
Ms Grasby’s work includes extensive assessments for PNG children who have congenital or acquired disabilities, injuries and illnesses, for consideration of corrective surgery in conjunction with Children First Foundation (CFF).
“I am dedicated to improving the health and welfare of these people, all the while learning more about the new ailments that are prolific in these regions, many of which are unseen in Australia,” she said. “This cause has become a personal passion of mine and one which I am sharing with others at Cabrini with the primary focus of being to improve healthcare outcomes for those in the remotest areas of PNG.”
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a mere 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Australia’s northern-most tip yet the difference in healthcare between the two countries is immense.
Many Papua New Guineans have diseases that go untreated because they live in remote, almost inaccessible villages high in rainforest-wrapped mountains. However, in the past two years, Cabrini Health nurses have pushed into these villages to give the only first-world healthcare assessments that these people have ever had – and to do so they flew, trekked, paddled and climbed to reach their patients.
There are approximately 400 doctors in PNG’s 462,340 square kilometres (approximately 178,510 square miles). Only 51 of them tend to the more than 90 percent of the population who live outside Port Moresby. Most people living in the highlands have never seen a doctor and many rarely see a healthcare worker. So in April 2016, Cabrini nurses Sue Grasby, Anne Marie Robinson, Bianca Di Sciascio and Monica Wallace left Australia for PNG with two other Melbourne nurses, each prepared to do whatever it took to improve the health outlook for those they visited. They travelled with No Roads to Health, an adventure travel company that arranges trips to remote regions for healthcare workers. The adventure is secondary to the purpose of nursing.
Once in Port Moresby, they boarded a light plane to Popondetta in the north, where they collected supplies and headed for the coastal village of Buna. Buna sits at the northern entrance to the Kokoda Track and is the place at which Japanese soldiers disembarked for the protracted battle that forged an Australian legend. After a two-hour trip in the back of a truck that became bogged in mud, the nurses arrived safely at the village. This was day 44 of torrential rain for the area, rain, which continued unabated throughout their stay. Here they spent two nights in a traditional guesthouse and operated health clinics each day.
Local people trekked into in Buna from remote villages for health checks and treatment, but there had been no medical supplies delivered to the area for more than three months so distressingly, these nurses, used to modern Australian hospitals with everything at their fingertips, could only provide health assessment, professional advice and treat them with Panadol and Indomethacin, a medication used to treat pain and inflammation.
From Buna via Popondetta and a short plane trip, the next stop was Tufi, a remote town set in pristine rainforest. Topographically spectacular, this region is characterized by lofty mountains and dramatic fjords, but there was little time to admire the scenery. In five days, the group conducted eight clinics, seeing 378 people in total. This area was well provisioned with medical supplies and they had the assistance of a local health worker who rowed his canoe almost three hours each way daily to provide healthcare – mostly unpaid. He, like many of PNG’s health workers, taught our nurses as much as they taught him.
“We treated people with painful backs, knees and necks caused by their hard lifestyle; we diagnosed tropical diseases like malaria, yaws, grille, and tended febrile children, giving penicillin where necessary,” said Ms. Robinson.
During the trip, the nurses took photos for orthopaedic surgeons: two of children with club feet for possible medical evacuation, and one of a child whose fractured leg was repaired by a Cabrini surgeon who wanted a progress report.
On the final day, a man brought them his four-year old grandson. They diagnosed nephrotic syndrome, a condition of the kidneys, and arranged for him to be hospitalized. Knowing that the man was poor and far from home, the group pooled money towards the cost of clothes, food and accommodation so that he could remain with his grandson.
Cabrini’s nurses found the Papua New Guineans to be warm, generous and grateful, smiling broadly despite deprivation and pain. This, and the unstinting hospitality they encountered, made up for the steep, treacherously slippery tracks, the bugs, spiders, lack of electricity and running water and the relentless rain. Some have already booked a return trip. “It was a wonderful way of continuing the missionary vision of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the Italian Sister who founded the congregation that owns and sponsors Cabrini in Australia, by providing care to those who cannot afford it,” says Monica “To give hope that will transform people’s lives – and to do it with Cabrini’s values of compassion, integrity, courage and respect”.
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.
Cabrini Australia marked World Refugee Day on Monday 20 June in a most tangible way: the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub received its first client, a Medicare-ineligible asylum seeker from the Middle East. He was seen by Professor Suresh Sundram, who has begun weekly psychiatry clinics at the health hub.
Centre Manager Tracey Cabrie, who has been onboard almost two months, is pleased with progress underway at the new Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub. “Credentialling of general practitioners, psychiatrists and psychiatry registrars is underway and we are receiving a great deal of interest from other healthcare professionals who want to volunteer their services, for example endocrinologists, nurses, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals,” she said. “Many referral agencies have been in touch and we have patients ready to access our services. We are currently working to finalise our roster of clinicians, as well as the policies, procedures and systems necessary to make the hub operational.”
The small team at the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub now includes two nurses Louise Wilson and Bernadette Flanagan who work part-time, Administration Assistant Santina McLean and Project Officer Nicole Whatley employed by St Vincent’s Hospital, one of our partners in the Hub, to support the establishment of the GP services.
For more information about the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub, visit http://www.cabrini.com.au/news-and-events/new-blogcategory-2/new-cabrini-asylumseeker-and-refugee-health-hub-opened/
Cabrini Health has announced the development of an asylum seeker and refugee health hub, a much needed service in Melbourne’s inner-north. The new service, will provide healthcare services for asylum seekers and refugees.
“Cabrini is committed to making a difference to the disadvantage faced by asylum seekers and refugees,” says Dr. Michael Walsh, Chief Executive of Cabrini. “We believe that working collaboratively is the most effective way to address disadvantage and will lead to the best health outcomes for the people we want to serve.”
[The state of] Victoria has one of the highest asylum seeker and refugee settlement numbers in Australia. Many asylum seekers in our community have neither work rights nor access to government benefits such as Medicare, Centrelink, housing or emergency relief.
“Our approach is based on strong partnerships with public and private hospitals, community health agencies, asylum seeker/refugee services and others who want to make a difference to the plight of asylum seekers and refugees,” said Dr Walsh. “We are grateful to the many agencies who have supported the concept and look forward to others joining with us over time to enhance our capacity.”
Initial services will begin by the end of May 2016 with GP clinics and specialist mental health services to be offered first. Chronic disease management, maternal and child health and infectious disease management, as well as social, emotional and spiritual support services, will follow.
“Clustering these services in one location will enhance access and facilitate a person-centred, integrated approach to primary and specialist care for this vulnerable group,” said Dr. Walsh.
The Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub will complement health services offered by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne’s west and Monash Health in the southern suburbs. Medicare-ineligible asylum seekers will be given priority access to our services, at no cost.
At the recent Provincial Assembly of the Missionary Sisters one session focused on the way in which Cabrinian ministries are addressing the pressing issues of immigration, migration, refugees, asylum seekers and human trafficking.
This week, we continue our series of in-depth looks at individual Cabrinian ministries and we explore how they are responding to the needs of those who are experiencing upheaval in their lives due to war, poverty, violence or captivity.
Cabrini Health, Australia
Baptcare/Cabrini Houses of Hope Pilot Program
Baptcare has been providing transitional housing to asylum seekers and refugees through their Sanctuary program since 2008. Sanctuary has capacity for 76 asylum seekers across two facilities in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. As well as tenancy support, residents have access to caseworkers and pastoral services aimed at improving their well-being, independence and social participation. This pilot program will end in July 2016.
Jesuit Social Services/Cabrini Asylum Seeker Solidarity Project
This is a joint initiative between Jesuit Social Services and Cabrini, which was initiated in December 2013 with the goal of changing the hearts and minds of the Catholic community towards asylum seekers and refugees. This has ultimately resulted in the formation of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), a steering group comprising representatives from Catholic peak bodies, universities and other relevant organizations that have liaison with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Cabrini Health provided a grant to fund the establishment and sustainability of CAPSA and a project officer to facilitate the development of joint statements, regular communications and messaging.
Mental Health Screening Tool for Asylum Seekers
This has been a three-year project to develop and evaluate a tool to screen for and triage mental illness in asylum seekers. The project goals were that the tool is short, sensitive to the asylum seekers’ mental health issues, and able to be administered by a non-professional staff member at the first interaction with asylum seekers. The tool is in the final stage of validation. Cabrini has fully funded the project.
CatholicCare Asylum Seeker Support Program
CatholicCare’s Asylum Seeker Support Program supports vulnerable individuals and families released from onshore detention centers into community detention and other individuals and families who are living in the community on bridging visas and who have virtually no support. Cabrini Health provided a grant for this program which partners with parishes.
Once again the Cabrini-Children First (CFF) Big Day Out was a wonderful success.
This time the children’s ages ranged from seven to fifteen years and their countries of origin were even more diverse: Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Palestine, Zambia, the Philippines and Vietnam. As usual, all the children were awaiting, or recovering from, life changing surgeries and in most instances they had been separated from family for an extended time. The day was a fun distraction and they threw themselves into it.
Staff also jumped into the spirit of the day. Kiley Harkness from Communications took the lead role on this trip and said, “For me, it’s about providing the children the chance to experience the feeling of being part of a group of people filled with love and compassion, while giving them a moment where they forget everything and just have fun. If I make them smile sometime during the day it makes it all worthwhile for me.”
The Cabrini-Children First Big Day Out initiative began in 2004 to support the great work of the CFF in a different way. Staff who engage with Cabrini’s Social and Community Engagement Program through volunteering can form special relationships with the children, some of whom they might meet through Cabrini’s medical evacuation program or at subsequent outings. “A small core of our regular volunteers form friendships and the kids really start to talk, joke and open up,” says Ruth Knight, Community Benefit Program manager. “Staff are always amazed at the transformation of some of the kids. Not just physical, post-surgical correction changes, but the boost in confidence that comes with that. It’s overwhelming.”
On this occasion, eleven staff and family members accompanied the children and all enjoyed two games of bowling before moving the festivities to a nearby park for a picnic. Food supplied by the Cabrini staff included savoury muffins, sandwiches, fruit, chips, jellies and homemade cakes and slices; so the children had quite a feast. It was amazing that at the end of the day they still had the energy to kick a footy, chase a frisbee and play ping pong – but they did. Here they were able to play freely and enjoy just being kids without thoughts of surgery or homesickness.
In September 2015, Cabrini published the second volume of its history From one pebble, many pearls: perspectives on Cabrini Health 1999−2012 by Melbourne based author Di Websdale-Morrissey.
Sister Pietrina Raccuglia MSC, Provincial Superior of the Stella Maris Province (which includes Cabrini in Australia), officially launches the book at a celebration being held at Cabrini Malvern on Tuesday 22 September
As well as providing accounts of key milestones in the evolution of Cabrini in Australia during the past decade, the book includes a section on the development of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart over the past ten years providing a key international perspective.
Cabrini Chief Executive Dr Michael Walsh says he is pleased to present the book, which is the second volume of the history of Cabrini Health in Australia. It begins where the last book Cabrini: a hospital’s journey 1948−1998 by Gwynedd Hunter-Payne finished.
“This book provides perspectives on a period of time in Cabrini’s growth and history from 1999 to 2012. Rather than providing a strictly chronological review, this book focuses on a number of key developments in the evolution of our organisation. The stories have been told with the different perspectives of people who were involved at the time, which I think gives a rich account of Cabrini Health over the past decade or so,” said Dr Walsh.
“It is a tribute to the courage and vision of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the Cabrini Sisters) who founded our institution and continue to sponsor and guide us today. It honours the Cabrini Health Board of Directors, management, doctors, staff and volunteers – past and present – who worked at Cabrini from 1999 until now. I especially thank our three Board Chairs of this era: the late Jan Bitcon, Professor Peter Phelan and Peter Matthey.”
The book is dedicated to Sister Irma Lunghi MSC (1926-2013) and Sister Regina Casey MSC who both spent many years working tirelessly at Cabrini in Australia and were much loved by all.
In rseearching and preparing the manuscript for the book, the author Di Websdale-Morrissey conducted approximately 100 interviews. She says the project “quickly became a fascinating and involving” one that drew her into life at Cabrini.
“Before beginning the project, I had no real knowledge of Cabrini. What surprised me most was its size and reach: the number of campuses, the size of its staff and accredited doctors; its specialisations; never-ending quest for excellence; and its advances into research and education. It was fascinating to discover that Cabrini is often at the forefront of advances in healthcare within the private sector – the introduction of its palliative care service which is unique in Victoria and so many other firsts. Chemtronics (a biomedical engineering business, now part of the Cabrini Technology group) and the Cabrini Linen Service also amazed me with their size and scope.”
Ms Websdale-Morrissey says she enjoyed the process particularly the many interviews she conducted. “The interviewees sat happily sharing their memories,” she said. “I would often get lost in the stories, laughing, crying, admiring. I hope that the book is overwhelmingly a celebration.”
Details about the book
- Soft cover, 336 pages, dimensions 220 mm X 170 mm
- Approximately 150 full colour photographs
- Design and typesetting by Motion Advertising and Design Pty Ltd (Victoria)
- Printing by Adams Printers Pty Ltd (Victoria)
- Cover photography by John O’Flaherty
- Stained glass windows featured on the book cover and throughout the book were created by Australian glass artist David Wright and are located at in the chapel at Cabrini Malvern, 183 Wattletree Road, Malvern
- Publisher is Cabrini Health Limited, which holds copyright
For a copy of the book, please call Cabrini’s marketing and community relations department on ph (03) 9508 3553 or firstname.lastname@example.org