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Doctor National Helpline and Helping the Homeless

September 3, 2019 0 Comments

For the past 18 months, Cohealth and Green Cross collaborated in funding The Street Doctor program. It provides free medical services to the homeless every Wednesday. 

Operated from a fully equipped minivan, GP Dr Kate Coles and Nurse Vaan Phongsavan have treated more than 200 homeless patients from their mobile surgery. Some of their homeless patients have problems with transport and difficulties to get to an appointment on time, so by being mobile and there for them, a lot of barriers have been removed.

Homeless sitting on street

Doctor National Helpline and Helping the Homeless

The homeless, according to Dr Coles, have dealt with various complex problems and not just colds and flus. Some of these include skin infections or mental impairment and drug addiction. Through interacting with them, they have found that the lack of available affordable housing, unemployment and family violence are other common factors besides mental illness that leads to some of her patients becoming homeless.

In order to support the program, the Wednesday clinic and the City of Melbourne have recently committed to helping the service to also operate on Mondays in the CBD.

Dr Coles encourages other GPs and medical practitioners to get involved with similar programs in an ABC release. “It’s just wonderful to meet all these people and be part of the very big team that are trying to do something good,”

But she does admit to feeling frustrated by what she sees while working as the street doctor.

“Often people don’t have much of a safety net and so then they find themselves on the street, and it’s those sorts of things that really get me riled up.”

Hands holding and supporting each other

The need for a national helpline for doctors in Australia

An updated report this year from a 2013 Beyond Blue study found that more than 12,000 doctors experience high psychological distress, significantly greater (3.4%) than the general population (0.7%).

Additional findings of the study include up to 21% of respondents reporting a history of depression, 6% had an existing diagnosis, approximately 9% of doctors experienced an anxiety disorder (compared to 5.9% of the population) and 3.7% reported a current diagnosis (compared to 2.7% of the population). The most common sources of work-related stress were the need to balance work and personal responsibilities (26.8%), too much to do at work (25%), responsibility at work (20.8%), long work hours (19.5%), and fear of making mistakes (18.7%). Some have resulted in death and are raising alarm for the lack of help doctors themselves get.

Dr Tagg, a long-time advocate for doctor mental health, told newsGP that it is well known that doctors and medical students have disproportionately higher levels of mental distress. None of his junior doctors knew where to turn if they needed help.

According to him, doctors’ health is a national problem. It should receive more national attention and better access to solutions.

There are multiple websites with similar information about this topic and there are lists of individual helplines for each state but there is no single official helpline for the whole country. To tackle this, Dr Jill Gordon, Chair of the ADHN told newsGP she believed a single helpline was a good idea to start with.

Doctor washing hands

Do you agree there should be a single helpline that every Doctor knows they can reach?

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