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From left to right: Salar, Salih, Samar, Naam, Sali and Saman Al-Mhama at the Multicultural Vaccination Unit in Coffs Harbour.

Healthcare support fosters healing for Refugee Week

Jun 22, 2022

In conjunction with Refugee Week 2022, Mid North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) is recognising the patient-centred healthcare support that its Multicultural Health Unit provides to refugees, asylum seekers and people on bridging visas from countries across the world.

MNCLHD Multicultural Health Unit Clinical Nurse Consultant Michele Greenwood said many people who arrive in the regional refugee settlement area of Coffs Harbour have spent years without a safe place to stay, exposed to harsh living conditions, lack of food, water, basic hygiene, fundamental healthcare and, in many cases, subject to torture and trauma.

“We provide healthcare support to people from at least eight different African countries, including Sudan, Liberia Congo, Burundi, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Many people are also from Myanmar, our largest individual settlement group, and from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq,” Ms Greenwood said.

“Many of these individuals have arrived with health challenges due to absence of access to services for many years from where they have come. This can range across physical or infectious diseases as well as trauma as a result of their experiences.”

“Very few refugees have health records with previous medical history or immunisation status, many may also have chronic and complex illnesses which have largely been untreated or self-treated for a long period of time leading to long-standing poor health and disability.”

This year’s World Refugee Week from 19 to 25 June is a time to reflect and encourage mainstream and refugee communities to draw upon shared hardships, learning from each other by embracing this year’s theme of ‘Healing’ to promote harmony and togetherness.

Ms Greenwood said MNCLHD had established a refugee screening clinic in 2006 to streamline early detection of health conditions and facilitate referral of refugees into the District’s health services.

“Our healthcare professionals provide a range of services the refugee community may have had trouble accessing or understanding due to language barriers, cost or complex health needs. We also run a number of outreach services, she said.

North Coast Public Health Unit Assistant Director Robin Auld praised the hard work and dedication of the District’s refugee health team.

“It’s a multi-disciplinary team that provides patient-centred holistic care such as vaccination clinics, access to social workers, physiotherapy sessions and general practitioners,” he said.

“I’d like to acknowledge the team for the support they have provided to the refugee community of Coffs Harbour. It really is reflective of the Refugee Week theme of working together in harmony to heal.”

For details about local refugee health services, visit: https://mnclhd.health.nsw.gov.au/public-health/refugee-health/

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