Healthcare sector provides welcome to refugees

June 19, 2020

With Refugee Week providing an opportunity to celebrate a ‘Year of Welcome’ online across Australia, the VHA is sharing some of the many examples where healthcare organisations are supporting and welcoming refugees across Victoria.

From dedicated refugee clinics run by hospitals to social inclusion, employment and education programs delivered by community health services, Victorian healthcare organisations play a pivotal role in making refugees feel warm, safe and welcomed.

Dedicated clinics and liaison services

With a mission to ‘help people transition from surviving to thriving’, the Monash Health Refugee Health and Wellbeing service provides comprehensive primary care services alongside tertiary services including infectious diseases, paediatrics and psychiatry. In addition, a Refugee Health Nurse Liaison at Dandenong Hospital aims to enhance access, quality of care and care coordination for refugees and asylum seekers within the acute sector, whilst improving interactions between hospital services, primary care and other providers.

Hospitals across Victoria also offer dedicated clinics including the Royal Melbourne Hospital which provides specialist care for immigrants, refugees and travellers with a range of conditions, including nutritional deficiencies. The Royal Children’s Hospital runs a clinic for refugee children providing a multidisciplinary assessment service, including medical and education/developmental assessment, mental health/psychiatry assessment, oral health assessment and health promotion, catch-up vaccinations, Mantoux testing and administration of Vitamin D as needed.

Delivering services in the community

In metropolitan areas and beyond, services deliver health care for refugees and asylum seekers living in their communities. Sunraysia Community Health Service delivers a regular refugee health service for Mildura, Barwon Health’s Refugee Health Clinic allows GPs to refer refugees living in the Geelong area for assessment and treatment, and Gateway Health runs an award-winning Multicultural Clinic in Wodonga.

Like many other Australians, refugees have been impacted by COVID-19 and services have continued to adapt their programs to support these vulnerable members of the community. Bendigo Health has been providing resources in a range of languages, including Karen, and also created a dedicated COVID-19 refugee resource hub.

Programs provide welcome and hope

Another metropolitan service, EACH’s Refugee Health Program was developed to ensure the health needs of new arrivals or asylum seekers are well managed through regular assessments.

Bwe, who arrived in Australia with little knowledge of the country, recounts his experience with EACH. He says EACH changed his life forever and that for the first time he felt like someone cared for his wellbeing, ‘the sense of welcome and kindness gave me so much hope. It raised my aspirations and I promised myself I would do whatever it takes to contribute back to this wonderful country’.

 

EACH’s Refugee Health Program supports people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds living in the Eastern Region of Victoria and includes a Refugee Health Nurse Practitioner, Refugee Health Nurses, Specialist General Practitioners.

Clients attending the program can have multiple and often complex health issues, most of which they may not have received treatment in the past.

Similar stories inspire healthcare workers across Victoria to play a role in ensuring the wellbeing of, and providing a warm welcome for, refugees in Australia.

Additional support is also available through the Victorian Refugee Health Network which helps health, community and settlement services build capacity to provide more accessible and appropriate care for people of refugee backgrounds.

These and countless other examples take place across the state each day, with Victoria’s health organisations delivering care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.