Health conditions of refugees in Australia and role of nurses
The Refugee Health Nurse Program (RHNP) began in 2005 in response to the poor and complex health issues of arriving refugees. It aims to:-
- Increase refugee access to primary health services.
- Improve the response of health services to refugees’ needs.
- Enable individuals, families and refugee communities to improve their health and wellbeing.
Australia currently accepts over 13000 refugees each year. These are among the most vulnerable people in the world. They may suffer from diseases and conditions rarely seen in Australia, including infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, syphilis and fungal skin infections. They may have nutritional problems relating to Vitamin A, Vitamin D or Iron deficiency.
However, obtaining an accurate overview of the health service needs of refugees and asylum seekers is difficult, hence the challenge in providing the health services they require so urgently. This is because the refugees have suffered culturally.
Practice nurses provide health care for refugees who have arrived through the Refugee and Humanitarian Program or for Asylum Seekers who have obtained visas with associated rights.
Refugees and asylum seekers in Australia often have complex physical and psychological health care needs. Primary health care service provision for refugees and particularly for Medicare is challenging.
Australia is in great need of new models of primary health care that can provide critical services for refugees and asylum seekers.