Cabrini Outreach and Primary Care Connect to open primary care clinic in Shepparton, seek pro bono GP assistance

Cabrini Outreach and Primary Care Connect will today (23 June 2021) open a primary care clinic dedicated to offering free healthcare for refugees and asylum seekers in Shepparton.

Clinic Sihat, situated in the Primary Care Connect premises at 399 Wyndham St, Shepparton, will operate on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 10am-4pm as part of a pilot program for the next 12 months.

The clinic is for people seeking asylum, undocumented migrants, vulnerable temporary visa holders and refugees up to six months after arrival. Priority will be given to people who don’t have Medicare and all healthcare provided at the clinic will be free.

The clinic is supported by the Victorian Government through the Priority Response to Multicultural Communities (PRMC) program.

Since 2018, Cabrini Outreach has been in discussion with Primary Care Connect regarding their need for specialist primary care for refugees and asylum seekers. The name, Clinic Sihat, means holistic health and wellbeing in Urdu, Hazaragi and Malay.

With the recent expansion of Cabrini Outreach’s specialist mental health services to regional areas, they completed a comprehensive community needs assessment for the Greater Shepparton region. This assessment found that the most pressing need in the area was for primary care.

Primary Care Connect’s CEO Rebecca Lorains said they were “excited to partner with Cabrini in this important primary health outreach model of care”.

“It is vital that all people in our community have access to good quality primary care where they live. It is a demonstration of our commitment to improving the health of our often vulnerable and marginalised community members through the lens of the social model of health. Our partnership will assist in creating inclusive community health care opportunities through collaboration.”

Cabrini Outreach Pro Bono General Practitioner, Dr Malcolm Altson, will work from the clinic one day a fortnight, alongside Practice Implementation Nurse Hannah Juhrmann, who will be stationed at the clinic every Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dr Altson said as well as providing essential health services, the clinic would support and build capacity for local GPs to accept referrals and provide appropriate clinical care to refugees, and collect data and information to support applications for increased (state and federal) government funding. He hopes other local GPs will donate their time to provide free care at the clinic.

“Primary care is too important to just let a whole segment of the community go without. I hope other local General Practitioners will be willing to help us provide this critical care,” Dr Altson said.

“People seeking asylum have specific needs in primary care, requiring the use of interpreting services, refugee health screening, and understanding of the psychosocial impacts of their protection application process,” Ms Juhrmann said.

“Our people really need healthcare. If they cannot pay, many people are just sitting at home with serious health problems – asthma, heart conditions, and even pregnant women. They need somewhere to go for help,” Mr Faizal, President of the Goulburn Valley Malaysian Association, said.

About Primary Care Connect

Primary Care Connect are regarded as a community health service that engages with vulnerable and hard to reach community groups. They have more than 25 programs focusing on a range of health and wellbeing issues and pride themselves on providing person-centred and consumer driven care, that allows people to take control of their lives and bring about change.

Read the recent article published in the Shepparton News (25/06/2021).