New injecting room a chance to link patients to a better life

Paul Hayes

1/11/2017 2:45:34 PM

Melbourne’s newly approved medically supervised injecting room may provide a chance to get drug-affected patients on the path to improved health and wellbeing, according to a Richmond GP who works with this patient population.


Medically supervised injecting areas can provide accompanying benefits for patients and residents
Medically supervised injecting areas can provide accompanying benefits for patients and residents

‘Hopefully, by getting people into a supervised injecting facility we can then deal with a whole lot of their health and wellbeing and social issues in a more appropriate, meaningful way,’ Dr Ines Rio, a GP at North Richmond Community Health, where the new service will operate, told newsGP.

‘I think this is the hook in, in some ways, to actually getting [these patients] into the rest of the alcohol and drug and social system.’
The location of the injecting room has also been welcomed. North Richmond Community Health is adjacent to what is often colloquially referred to as the ‘rectangle of death’ – a section bordered by Hoddle, Elizabeth, Victoria and Lennox streets – where as many as 20% of all Victorian heroin-overdose deaths occur.
‘The location that’s been nominated is absolutely ideal,’ Dr Keri Alexander, an addiction medicine specialist, told newsGP. ‘Nearly every preventable accidental overdose has happened in that rectangle.’
Dr Alexander believes that, in addition to helping prevent overdoses, providing a space for safer drug use where people have access to sterile injecting equipment will help to minimise many often-serious added harms of intravenous drug use.
‘Often people inject in dirty circumstances. They might be injecting in a poorly lit laneway, they might be using dirty water to inject, injecting that into their veins. They might be panicking, sweaty, clumsy, their skin might not be clean,’ she said. ‘Their risk of getting a really nasty infection from injecting drug use is quite significant.’
A safe injecting room can also provide a number of flow-on benefits for the people who live and work in Richmond.
‘I think people would welcome some of the practical issues, such as hopefully not having so many syringes lying around on the ground, not having people overdosing or being in an unsafe situation outside their door,’ Dr Rio said. ‘Residents have explained to me that sometimes they see somebody who is a bit “wobbly” and they will stay outside just in case they have to ring the ambulance. I think that will be a really practical issue for them.’
While she has welcomed the announcement, calling it ‘well overdue’, Dr Rio acknowledges there is work to be done in order to maximise its potential to genuinely help some of the healthcare system’s most vulnerable patients.
‘We have got a task ahead of us to make sure the facility is really well connected into other medical, social, housing, drug and alcohol facilities,’ she said.
‘We have to be respectful that this is actually a confronting aspect in our society. None of us want people to be injecting drugs and, I would say, by and large the people injecting drugs don’t want to be injecting drugs, either.
‘So the ability to actually connect people into things that might be able to bring them out of that phase of that life in a way that they are still alive and relatively well is crucial.’

safe-injecting-room Victoria

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cordell vardy   4/11/2017 7:57:25 AM

well done