People from refugee backgrounds and Asylum Seekers are one of the community groups that present with the poorest health outcomes. They have higher rates of chronic diseases and mental health problems than migrants due to past experiences of exposure to violations of their human rights, persecutions, exposure to civil war or traumatic scenes, deprivation as well as post-migration stressors.
Environmental change and unfamiliarity with Australian healthcare services systems and procedures add more challenges to accessing health care. The roles and health pathways within general practice and other primary healthcare services, pharmacies, and hospital-based services can be particularly difficult to navigate for those new to the country.
What can my practice do to support refugees?
General practices play a key role in the recovery from physical and mental health issues for Refugees and asylum seekers by providing post-arrival initial health assessments and ongoing care. For many refugees, GPs are their first trusted point of contact for support and can be vital in the diagnosis of complex health concerns and ongoing support from referral services. When managing refugee patients, health professionals should:
- Provide post-arrival initial health assessments
- Take a person-centred and trauma-informed approach to support recovery
- Establish long-term care plans and connect to additional support services
- Train staff on refugee identification so that patients can access additional support
WentWest’s Refugee Health program
Western Sydney is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in Australia. As the Primary Health Network for Western Sydney, one of WentWest’s objectives is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of medical services for patients, particularly those at risk of poor health outcomes. Our Refugee Health Program is designed, to provide GPs in Western Sydney with information, education and coaching around Refugee Health and to provide them with referral resources to social and community support services.
How can WentWest’s Refugee Health Facilitator help your practice?:
Since July 2020, WentWest’s Refugee Health Facilitator has supported over 60 General practices in Western Sydney, including Bridgeview Medical Centre. These practices are now better equipped to respond to the health needs of refugees in our community. Our Refugee Health Facilitator:
- Supports GPs to address the challenges faced in the provision of patient care services for refugees
- Facilitates training and provides educational resources that contribute to eliminating those challenges
- Collaborates, networks, and partners with key community organisations, government agencies and local councils to address health care gaps for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Spotlight on Bridgeview Medical Centre
Bridgeview Medical Centre have been taking every step to ensure that refugees in their area receive the best health and psychosocial services. Since the practice was established in 2010, staff have seen changes in the demographics of their patients. Bridgeview has opened up its doors to care for the rising number of refugees in Western Sydney, primarily from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq. 5-8% of patients now registered at their practice have a refugee background.
Staff connect patients to specialist support services to respond to their complex medical and psychosocial issues. Three on-site psychologists provide psychological support to refugees suffering from trauma and multiple doctors are also able to speak to their patients in Farsi and Tamil.
Going above and beyond the duty of care, Bridgeview has developed a Tamil Companion Program with support from Anglican Care and STARTTS. The program aims to respond to the rising levels of suicide of Tamil refugees suffering from isolation and PTSD. The Companion Program improves the life and mental health of Tamil speaking refugees and asylum seekers by providing one-on-one friendship and care from a volunteer buddy.
This Refugee Week (20th-26th June 2021), let us take patient care one step further, and help assess and manage the specific care needs of Refugees and Asylum Seekers as they begin to rebuild their lives in Western Sydney.
Contact WentWest’s Refugee Health Facilitator, Firat Abali (firstname.lastname@example.org), if your practice has any inquiries around provision of information, referral resources or coaching relating to Refugee and Asylum Seekers’ health.
Useful Refugee Health Events and Resources
- A comprehensive list of refugee health services and resources in Western Sydney: https://wentwest.com.au/wp-content/uploads/health_professional_resources/A4-Refugee-Health-Program_WEB.pdf
- Refugee identification poster: https://wentwest.com.au/wp-content/uploads/health_professional_resources/WW_Refugee_Poster_Web.pdf
- STARTTS is the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors: https://www.startts.org.au/
Refugee Camp in my Neighbourhood
Join a tour of an artificial refugee camp designed specifically for health professionals. Learn about the refugee experience, its impact on health, and how you can better support new arrivals manage their health here in Australia. Tours are delivered by guides with lived experiences from a range of refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
- Dates: Thursday 29 July and Wednesday 11 August 2021
- Times: First tour starts 9:30am. Tours depart every 30 minutes until 2:30pm
- Where: Whitlam Institute, Western Sydney University,Rydalmere
- Duration: Each tour takes approximately 2.5 hours (CPD points should apply)
- Cost: $35 per person (Group discounts available: min/max 20 people @ $30pp)
Read more and book tickets here: https://refugeecampauburn.com.au