OBJECTIVES: To determine issues that affect newly resettled refugees in accessing an emergency department (ED). DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: We conducted a descriptive community survey using a semistructured questionnaire. Newly resettled refugees from the Middle East and Africa were interviewed, statistical analysis was performed, and standard content analysis methods were applied to free-text responses. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Emergency health-seeking behaviour, sociocultural barriers and beliefs about Australia's emergency health services. RESULTS: Half the African refugees (53/106) (50%), compared with only 15/49 (31%) of the Middle Eastern refugees, preferred an ED service over other forms of care for an urgent medical condition (P = 0.024). Qualitative data revealed that most newly resettled refugees understand how to use the emergency health services. However, while most indicated that they were able to make a call for emergency medical help, a substantial number of our respondents revealed that they were afraid to make such a call for fear of security implications, on the basis of experiences from their home countries. CONCLUSION: Reasons for differences in preferences of health care access, and determining how best to educate the community on the use of ED services, warrant further investigation. From a policy perspective, the increasing health care needs of refugees need re-examination when planning health care provision to refugees.
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