New guidelines for healthworkers treating refugees and asylum seekers

New guidelines for healthworkers treating refugees and asylum seekers

SBS World News Radio: New health recommendations have been released for treating refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Australia.

Health workers are set to be better informed on how to treat Australia's newest arrivals, with the release of updated recommendations on caring for refugees and asylum seekers.

The guidelines were developed to cover areas such as mental health, women's health and various other health disorders, and was written under the supervision of refugee health nurses.

Physician Nadia Chaves says the recommendations are needed because the demographic of new arrivals in Australia is changing, with arrivals from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

She says many asylum seekers and refugees haven't had the same standard of medical care as most people who've grown up in Australia.

That means healthcare workers need to take a different approach when treating them.

"They may have missed out on things like immunisations that we take for granted, and providing a comprehensive health assessment will help identify problems such as a lack of immunisations or inadequate access to dental care or normal preventative screening that we do. Comprehensive health assessment also can potentially identify health problems that they might be unaware of. We're hoping that these recommendations help to standardise what a GP or nurse might offer someone when they first encounter a person from a refugee background."

Australia currently resettles 13,750 people each year, and has pledged to take in a further 12,000 from Syria and Iraq, fleeing ongoing conflict.

Nadia Chaves says these distressing experiences can deeply affect a person's mental wellbeing.

"The main thing that we want to make health professionals aware of is that yes people may have had a background of torture or trauma or psychological or physical violence, but a positive interaction with a health professional is a first step to a new future really. We also need to be aware of if people are at risk of mental health complications to refer them early and to get counselling or psychiatric help."

But she's hopeful that these recommendations will make Australia's health system better for workers and new patients.

"I like to say we have a person-centred care approach, which means that we actually ask people what their needs are and take into account their values and their wishes when providing medical care for them and we always offer an interpreter to make sure we're speaking their language. That actually is the most important part about being culturally competent, is actually having a person-centred approach, and if we do that we'll actually be able to communicate with anyone from any culture."



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