Social enterprise clinic experiencing long wait lists and GP shortages

Doug Hendrie

20/03/2019 4:01:51 PM

Waiting times are ballooning at a pioneering clinic in Brisbane that ​focuses on refugees, ​migrants and people ineligible for Medicare.

Dr Megan Evans
Dr Megan Evans, of the World Wellness Health and Medical clinic, is concerned about vulnerable patients who could otherwise fall between society’s cracks.

The situation is nearing crisis point for the World Wellness Health and Medical clinic, after losing three GPs ​within the past six months. 
The clinic is one of only two in south-east Queensland that specialise in treating ​people seeking asylum and those from refugee backgrounds. 
Dr Megan Evans, Associate Director of the World Wellness Health and Medical board, told newsGP that she and her colleagues are increasingly anxious about the situation and the implications for their patients, who could otherwise fall between society’s cracks.
The clinic originally offered same-day appointments, but a spike in demand means waiting lists are now routinely 7–10 days, with 10–15 people on waiting lists every day.
‘We are bursting at the seams with patients. We’re not really comfortable with this at all,’ Dr Evans said. 
‘We treat people who are marginalised – that’s our mission and core business. But we are also open to the community.
‘We want to provide great healthcare to everyone, including people who are Medicare-ineligible. We see people who have difficulties accessing healthcare. We won’t turn anyone away.’
The clinic bulk-bills patients who are eligible for Medicare, and treats Medicare-ineligible patients on a pro-bono basis.
‘We treat international students who may be having visa ​issues, people on bridging visas ​for whatever reasons,  ​and people from all backgrounds and countries who may be in limbo with Medicare ​or have had their visas rejected,’ Dr Evans said. ‘We continue to see them through these time​s.’
The six part-time GPs spread the pro-bono work among themselves, so the impact on remuneration is limited. All GPs at the clinic also work elsewhere in private practices.
Dr Evans said she loves working at the clinic due to the huge diversity in the patient cohort.
‘​In a typical afternoon I ​have treated a woman who has been imprisoned in the Middle East and who fled to Australia, a family of refugees who are recovering from malaria they picked up in a ​refugee camp in Tanzania, ​a woman from Papua New Guinea who has survived family violence, and then someone Australian-born with a mental health issue,’ she said.
‘It’s such a diverse population that I find it’s incredibly interesting and rewarding to be able to provide a good service they may not have ​ever had ​access to before.
‘This is a great country and we should be able to provide quality healthcare to everyone.
‘I’ve worked in private practice ​in other clinics and as a GP you have to deal with the fact you may have to close the door to that person, because they don’t have a Medicare card, are ineligible,​ or can’t afford to pay.
‘I’ve seen so many scenarios over the last 10 years that demonstrate the need for this kind of service for these vulnerable members of our community.’
Dr Evans said services like the World Wellness ​Health and Medical clinic are vital to take pressure off public hospitals and emergency departments.
The World Wellness ​Health and Medical clinic, which was founded in 2012, also provides mental health programs and allied health.
Dr Evans said the other refugee-focused clinic in which she used to work, Mater Refugee Complex Care Clinic, was also often stretched due to demand. 
‘At the World Wellness Health and Medical clinic, we have 100 hours of GP appointments available per week. But we could offer another 80 hours, based on room availability,’ she said. ‘We could fill that if we had more GPs for this unique, interesting and rewarding job.
‘Our clientele are often very highly motivated, and there’s so much you can do to help them.’

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sonal dhanani   21/03/2019 10:20:52 AM

I am from Brisbane. Where should I get contact details for clinic who are working with refugee? Let me know as I am interested .

newsGP   22/03/2019 10:23:43 AM

Thanks for your query, Sonal. The clinic's contact details are available on its website -