Nurse-led service bridges health gap

Source: APNA Primary Times Spring 2020 (Volume 20, Issue 2)

A patient checks in with Nurse Practitioner Jane Laidlaw and City Mission’s Ray Green at the Mission Health drop-in service. Picture: Paul Scambler, Launceston Examiner.


Driving into the gym carpark at Launceston one morning, Nurse Practitioner Jane Laidlaw was surprised to see a person rough sleeping in a car.

It had never occurred to her that homelessness was an issue in this riverside city in northern Tasmania but there it was staring her in the face.

Later, as she reflected on what she had seen, Jane decided to do something to address health access and affordability for people living on the margins in her community.

Fast forward two years and this APNA member now heads up a nurse-led drop-in service for some of Launceston’s most vulnerable people.

 

Mission Health is the result of a collaboration Jane initiated with City Mission, nursing lecturers at the University of Tasmania and Kings Meadows Medical where she works.

The service, open from 9.30am-12.30pm on Thursdays, provides free health care for people who may otherwise go without.

Jane says Mission Health is making an impact with services including general health assessments, chronic health management, sexual health testing and immunisations.

“We focus on finding out what is most important to that person, at that time, and then provide them with that essential service. For someone who is homeless, it can be hard to see a GP for an appointment when you are under stress or living somewhere that isn’t safe.

“People in those kind of situations often have complex health issues too, so affordability for longer GP consults can be a real barrier. That’s why our service is bulk-billed.”

 

Jane’s position at Mission Health is funded by the MBS items she generates.

As a Nurse Practitioner, she can prescribe certain medications, order pathology tests and x-rays as well as most ultrasounds.

Mission Health is staffed by Jane and two UTAS nursing lecturers, who are both Registered Nurses and whose clinical time at the service is paid for by the university.

Other costs such as consumables are literally covered by the kindness of strangers and occasional grants such as $2,000 received recently from Rio Tinto. As Jane says: “We run on fresh air and dust in many respects, but it is so worthwhile.”

Jane says the service has the potential to be replicated elsewhere, leveraging nurse resources and providing patient-centred care for those most at need.

The Australian Primary Health Care Association acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.


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