New refugee healthcare resource for GPs and practice teams

Amanda Lyons

22/06/2018 2:49:46 PM

Dr Kate Walker, GP and Chair of the RACGP Refugee Health Specific Interests network, talks to newsGP about the Australian refugee health practice guide during Refugee Week.

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Dr Kate Walker believes that providing care to refugee patients can be challenging, but is also very rewarding.

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is #WithRefugees, with a focus on encouraging Australians to stand together with people who have been forced to flee from their homes.
In this spirit, Dr Kate Walker, GP and Chair of the RACGP Refugee Health Specific Interests network, spoke with newsGP about the Australian refugee health practice guide (the Guide), a new online resource for GPs and their practice teams, of which she was a key author.
‘Refugees are a really rewarding, fulfilling group of patients; their care can be really challenging, but they’re some of the most appreciative, loyal patients I’ve looked after,’ she said.
Dr Walker has found that when providing healthcare to refugee patients, the key issue is initial engagement between the GP and the patient.
‘It’s important to pay attention to those detailed interpersonal things; making sure you’ve got a trained interpreter and allow adequate time to understand someone’s background, what country they’re from, what sort of journey they’ve had, what their supports are in Australia,’ she said. ‘Focus on just trying to engage and build trust with that individual patient to ensure follow-up.
‘Then there’s a series of things to be mindful of: Have they had a comprehensive post-arrival refugee health assessment done? Have the results been adequately followed up? Have they had catch-up vaccinations? How is their settlement in Australia going? Have they got any long-term mental health problems? Are they looking for treatment?
‘Also, while being mindful of the suggested screening list, let the patient lead the priority list so their immediate needs are covered first.’
GPs who are not familiar with or experienced in providing care to refugees may be unsure how to approach refugee care.
The Guide is designed to help GPs in providing refugee healthcare, including navigating through the process of the initial consultation.
‘It has sections on new arrival health assessments and also on common health concerns that apply to all ages,’ Dr Walker said. ‘There are also sections on different populations, including children, asylum seekers, men’s health, people with disabilities.’
The Guide contains two tiers of information.
‘When you click on the relevant link, there are the key points that will hopefully cover the initial question, if you’re trying to answer something while the patient is sitting there,’ Dr Walker said.
‘But it’s also got a lot of detailed information if you want to go back after hours and read through the background about something, for example, hepatitis C or B and its prevalence in different community groups, or approach to management of psychological effects of torture and trauma.’
Parts of the Guide have also been designed to assist all practice staff members.
‘There is a section with a whole-of-practice approach targeted towards reception and practice managers that is focused on how to book interpreters, organise appointments, what you should put in your waiting room that will be more friendly for people from refugee backgrounds, that sort of thing,’ Dr Walker said.
‘It also includes links to settlement support which might be useful for practice nurses, social workers, psychologists, people trying to access services in their state or territory.’
The Guide will be officially launched in August, but went live last month and is available online. Dr Walker is keen for GPs and their practice staff members to explore and make use of the new resource.
‘I really encourage a wide variety of GPs to become involved in refugee care, take a look at the Guide and let us know what you think,’ she said.

Australian refugee health practice guide refugee Refugee health week


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