Minister backs Mater plan for refugee health safety net

12/Jul/2023     HealthMater Group

Up to 1,000 people from refugee and migrant backgrounds will benefit from improved access to healthcare services thanks to a new initiative from Mater in partnership with the Queensland Government.


The Queensland Government has contributed almost $930,000 to enable Mater to integrate dedicated nurses in 10 GP surgeries across Brisbane, Ipswich and Logan – ensuring adults and children from multicultural backgrounds receive coordinated, early and appropriate medical care.


Mater Group Chief Executive Dr Peter Steer said people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, including many refugees and asylum seekers, faced major systemic barriers when accessing medical care.


“We know too many patients from multicultural backgrounds fall through the cracks of our health services,” Dr Steer said.


“Often they have little or no English, but are dealing with very complex health problems and may have experienced appalling trauma before arriving in Australia.


“Unsurprisingly, this means many people suffer poor health outcomes which we know could be avoided by connecting them to the right care at the right time.”


Mater is Queensland’s largest not-for-profit healthcare provider and is committed to the provision of refugee health services, including the operation of the Mater Refugee Complex Care Clinic for the last 21 years. The clinic has ensured that refugees and asylum seekers who lack entitlement to Medicare are still able to access essential health services.


Mater’s new initiative, the Multicultural Health Coordination Program, will build on the success of a two-year pilot program that has operated at five GP surgeries in suburbs with a high proportion of non-English speakers.


Almost 28 per cent of South East Queensland residents were born overseas, many of whom speak a language other than English at home.


“We know Mater’s model of care works for these vulnerable patients and we are delighted we will be able to provide an expanded multicultural health coordination program thanks to this commitment from the Queensland Government,” Dr Steer said.


Minister Fentiman said the new service would be supported through Queensland Health’s Connected Community Pathways (CCP) project.


“Mater’s program is a great example of community-based healthcare services delivering outcomes for communities closer to home,” Minister Fentiman said.


“We understand that refugees and asylum seekers face unique health problems that require timely and appropriate care.


“Expert and early intervention ensures newcomers to Australia can lead healthier lives – and helps alleviate demand pressures on hospitals and emergency departments.”


In addition to Queensland Health, Mater will partner with Children Health Queensland and the Metro North, Metro South and West Moreton Health and Hospital Services (HHSs), Brisbane North and Brisbane South Primary Health Networks, Inala Primary Care and The University of Queensland Centre for Community Health and Wellbeing to implement the one-year program and drive health system integration.


The nurse led-service will work with patients referred by GPs, hospitals and other social services who identify as having a CALD/refugee background, low English proficiency and unmanaged complex health needs.


The Mater nurses will focus on prevention, early intervention and care coordination, as well as improving health literacy.


A 2023 report by Queensland Health’s Disability and Multicultural Health System Policy Branch found that residents from non-English speaking backgrounds – including Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Serbia – suffer higher rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations than Australian-born residents.


Brisbane South PHN CEO Mike Bosel said Brisbane’s south was rich in cultural diversity, with 31 per cent of people in the region born overseas and 20 per cent born in a non-English speaking country.


“To meet the needs of our CALD communities, we need new models of care that provide culturally-responsive, place-based and person-centred approaches,” Mr Bosel said.


“We are pleased to partner with Mater and other valued stakeholders to continue to improve health access and equity for all in our region.”


Image: Picture shows Mater Clinical Nurse Kathryn Gregory with Somalian asylum seeker Farhan at the Mater Refugee Complex Care Clinic

Public relations contacts

07 3163 6142