Making health care accessible and inclusive

August 16, 2021

Homelessness and poor health have been twin concerns for Tyler* for over two decades.

Now in her mid-40s, she is in chronic pain after a botched epidural and is on valium to manage that condition – and methodone for her drug issues.

In many ways, her health concerns are typical of people who have experienced homelessness and stay with the Haymarket Foundation’s crisis accommodation facility. The majority have four or more chronic health conditions which need ongoing management.

“You get discriminated against straightaway by some health professionals,” says Tyler.

“There is no way I’ll mention that I’m on methodone, because they just think that you’re a drug user.”

In many cases, people like Tyler fall through the cracks of the health system – if they even access it at all. This is where the Haymarket Foundation’s General Practice comes in.

The service, which will primarily operate out of a purpose-built facility in Central, will provide accessible ongoing health care to people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, regardless of where they are living and even if they can’t access Medicare.

In addition to being accessible, the GPs and other health professionals will have a deep understanding of trauma, mental health, disability and the complexity of homelessness.

“So often when I ask for help, the doctors ask you questions which relate to trauma,” she says. “It re-opens old wounds which can cause a person to use drugs again to try to help forget it.”

She says the new service would be a critical missing link in the health care system – and will create opportunities for others who have often experienced a lifetime of disadvantage.

“It’s great that this service will also help people get housing,” she says.

The service, which will open its doors in 2022, will allow doctors to complete forms for public housing more easily during their consultations with clients experiencing homelessness.

Additionally, the GP service will run alongside the Haymarket Foundation’s existing crisis accommodation and other services, allowing for a wholistic approach to an individual’s concerns.

“So often people experiencing homelessness just don’t know where to start,” says the Haymarket Foundation CEO Peter Valpiani. “We hope to be that one-stop-shop where someone can get immediate medical attention, but also longer term help to find housing and support with their disability, for instance.”

*Tyler is not her real name. You can read more of her story in the Sydney Morning Herald 

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