Services underway at Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub

The Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub, which was opened officially in May this year, is providing a much needed service in Melbourne’s inner north 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 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 Ms Cabrié. “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 are 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 prioritises 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 Ms Flanagan. 

“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.” 

At the moment, clients come via referral from case workers or agencies that are working with asylum seekers. The priority of access is no Medicare card and no income. The hub has received referrals from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Lentara UnitingCare, Baptcare, Red Cross, Life without Barriers, AMES Australia and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. We expect more clients to come once word about the hub spreads in the asylum seeker community.

As part of the partnership arrangement with St Vincent’s Hospital, a part-time project officer has been provided to support the establishment and systems set up for the hub. St Vincent’s have been generous with its knowledge of establishing primary healthcare centres funding pathology and medical imaging services for our clients at no cost. The hospital has donated a high-low bed for the treatment room and are able to see clients at one of their GP practices nearby while the hub continues to become established. 

Cabrini is supporting asylum seekers seeking Australia’s protection. “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 Ms Cabrié. 

The Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub is a member of a number of asylum seeker and refugee health and settlement networks, both in the region and statewide. 

If you would like to support the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub, please consider the Cabrini Foundation’s trek challenges in Nepal. These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities enable Cabrini staff to embark on a remarkable journey while raising funds that will support the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub. To find out more about participating or sponsoring a participant, please contact the Cabrini Foundation on ph (03) 9508 1386.

If you would like to join Cabrini’s Asylum Seeker and Refugee Information Network, please email Kate Barker (Social Outreach Program Manager) or Ruth Knight (Community Benefit Program Manager)

For more information about the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub please call ph 8388 7874.