Article by Adam Wesselinoff
For years St Vincent’s Hospital’s Homeless Health program has been taking healthcare to the people – now a new mobile health clinic is taking healthcare on the road.
The mobile clinic is currently running a diabetes service to help people sleeping rough or living in social housing get access to health services normally provided in hospitals or specialty clinics.
The truck parks on Wednesday mornings at St Canice’s Church in Rushcutter’s Bay, at the same time as its outreach program Canice’s Kitchen is serving hot meals and cups of coffee.
Ralph, a guest at Canice’s Kitchen who has had diabetes for a decade and attended the mobile clinic, told The Catholic Weekly he would otherwise have to make a trip to hospital to get his diabetes checked.
“ERIN LONGBOTTOM TOLD THE CATHOLIC WEEKLY THAT PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS HAVE A HIGHER RATE OF CHRONIC DISEASE AND IMPROVING THEIR ACCESS TO CARE WAS VITAL.”
At the truck he could have blood tests taken and receive advice from a specialist diabetes nurse.
“It’s close, it’s convenient, it’s easy,” he said.
“Sometimes you forget, and it reminds you because it’s right here.”
Erin Longbottom, the nursing unit manager of St Vincent’s homeless health told The Catholic Weekly that people experiencing homelessness have a higher rate of chronic disease and improving their access to care was vital.
Untreated diabetes causes a raft of other health complications and can stop wounds from healing properly, so a service like the mobile health clinic can prevent trips to the doctor for more serious illness.
“It’s a way we can provide care that will improve population health and improve accessibility to healthcare,” Ms Longbottom said.
“It’s going to have a huge impact and for me personally that’s super satisfying.”
The mobile health clinic builds on work by Ms Longbottom and Carrie Deane, community manager at Canice’s Kitchen, whose partnership has led to doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and other “wrap-around” services being offered free at the centre.
Canice’s Kitchen also offers legal and financial advice, as well as professional coaching for people trying to find employment.
“IT’S LIKE ALL OF US: IF WE JUST LOOK AT OURSELVES, IF WE LOOK AT OUR OWN LIVES, IT’S NOT JUST ONE THING – THE HOUSE WE LIVE IN, THE JOB WE HAVE.”
“We can’t help people by just giving them a house or just giving them a job,” Ms Deane said.
“It’s like all of us: if we just look at ourselves, if we look at our own lives, it’s not just one thing – the house we live in, the job we have.
“It’s because of all the support we have around us, but we may not see that as support because it already exists.
“For our community we need to add in those support services in to allow them a successful pathway out of homelessness, and a sustainable long-term life that keeps them off the streets and off needing crisis support.”