Homeless-specific medical centre hoped to ease pressure on Perth emergency departments

A specific medical facility for people who are homeless could be a reality in two years if a WA government-driven trial proves successful.

The East Metropolitan Health Service this month opened an expression of interest tender for a medical respite centre to non-profit organisations to plan, commission and operate a pilot facility catering to the needs of people who are homeless.

The medical respite centre for people who are homeless is expected to be in operation in 2021.
The medical respite centre for people who are homeless is expected to be in operation in 2021.CREDIT:LOUISE KENNERLY

It is hoped the centre will take pressure off emergency departments, and will aim to provide care for those who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets, but not ill enough to be in a hospital.

The EOI process is based on recommendations put forward in a Sustainable Health Review and aims to collate information from non-profit organisations on service requirements, and to determine the level of interest in providing such a facility.

According to the Sustainable Health Review, people who are homeless suffered a high rate of chronic health issues and can often had conditions left undiagnosed and untreated for long periods of time.

“This often results in a reliance on acute health services, supporting the need for increased focus on partnership with other government agencies and community organisations,” it read.

On average 5599 people who are homeless present to tertiary emergency departments across the metropolitan area each year, with 1682 of those patients on average being admitted.

According to the Sustainable Health Review, 66 per cent of the homeless community presented to Royal Perth Hospital if they needed medical treatment, while Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Fiona Stanley Hospital each saw to 16 per cent of those patients.

Just 2 per cent of the homeless community presented to King Edward Memorial Hospital.

“RPH ED specifically see an average of 10 homeless patients per day, accounting for 5.1 per cent of their ED presentations,” the review read.

“Once admitted these patients stay in hospital 10 per cent longer than the average patient.”

The respite centre is designed to address the needs of patients who are homeless after they leave hospital, improve their health outcomes, and work on a pathway out of homelessness.

The centre will be open to admit people 18 years and older, seven days a week from 8am to 9pm.

It will provide an integrated clinical/psychosocial care service for people who have alcohol and other drug issues and mental health concerns.

A fixed budget of $4.2 million in government funding has been allocated to set up and operate the service as a trial over a two-year time span.

The facility’s infrastructure will be paid for by the successful tenure.

The tender is open until September 26, with the centre expected to operate permanently from the start of 2021 if the trial is successful.

This article first appeared in https://www.watoday.com.au/ 
By Lauren Pilat

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