Improving the management and care of refugees in Australian hospitals: A descriptive study

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Abstract

Objectives The aim of the present study was to investigate healthcare provider perceptions of the impact of refugee patients at two public hospitals, one rural and one urban, in designated refugee resettlement areas. Healthcare professionals' views regarding improvements that could be made in this area were also sought. Methods Two-page anonymous questionnaires containing demographic, quantitative and open-ended questions were distributed to 150 healthcare providers at each research site. Results Response rates at the rural and urban sites were 50% and 49%, respectively. Refugees were seen at least monthly by 40% of respondents. Additional support was requested by 70% of respondents. Confidence was associated with being born overseas (P≤0.029) and increased time working with refugees (rs≤0.418, P<0.001). Only 47% of respondents felt confident managing social and psychological needs of refugees. Midwives saw refugees more than nursing and allied healthcare staff combined, and this was significant at the rural hospital (P<0.001). Rural respondents reported that working with refugees enhanced their practice (P≤0.025), although felt significantly less confident (P<0.001) than urban respondents. Themes that arose regarding barriers to care included language and cultural barriers, paucity of knowledge and issues accessing available services, including appropriate interpreters, Medicare eligibility and patient factors, including lack of patient trust in government systems. Desire for support was more pronounced in the rural setting (P≤0.001). Conclusions Refugees were seen frequently in both settings and most respondents requested additional support, highlighting that caring for refugees in Australian hospitals is a significant challenge. Additional support and education should be targeted to those caring for refugees most frequently, particularly midwifery services, to reduce barriers to care. What is known about the topic? Refugees are a vulnerable group, often with complex health needs. These needs are often unmet because of issues including language and cultural barriers. What does this paper add? Refugees were seen frequently in the two public hospital settings involved in the present study and most often by midwifery services. Healthcare professionals require more support, more information about available services and better access to interpreter services. These issues were more pronounced in the rural setting where very limited research exists. What are the implications for practitioners? Implementing additional support and education regarding refugee health needs could increase knowledge and confidence when managing refugees, reducing barriers to care and improving quality of care.

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Ross, L., Harding, C., Seal, A., & Duncan, G. (2016). Improving the management and care of refugees in Australian hospitals: A descriptive study. Australian Health Review, 40(6), 679–685. https://doi.org/10.1071/AH15209

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