From streets to stability: Mission Health's role in rebuilding lives

  • Launceston City Mission opening
    Launceston City Mission opening
  • Jane Laidlaw
    Jane Laidlaw

In late 2018, Nurse Practitioner Jane Laidlaw and two RN Nursing Lecturers from the University of Tasmania, Michele Dowlman and Grace Bennett-Daly, met with the Launceston City Mission. We were all exploring how we might collaborate to provide healthcare to people experiencing homelessness in our community.

We were very aware that bulk-billing services in Launceston were almost non-existent. This, along with the chaos that homelessness brings to a person’s life, meant that access to healthcare in our community would be next to impossible. Over a period of weeks, the homeless community came to know of our existence.

On the first Thursday morning in March 2019, we ran our first clinic, Mission Health. City Mission created a space for us. It was small, very small. We had room for a donated examination bed, a desk with a computer & printer, and a couple of chairs. There were no hand-washing facilities, they were in another building. Thank goodness for hand sanitiser!

But we achieved some wonderful health outcomes in that tiny space. We vaccinated. We removed and replaced out of date Implanon contraceptive devices. We met a woman whose iron level was so low we were amazed she was till standing. We organised an infusion to be done by our local Rapid Response Team. We identified fulminant diabetes and were able to commence the person on appropriate therapy. We provided many scripts for people who had been without medication. We did referrals to podiatry for infected in-grown toenails.

The clinic is free (just bring your Medicare card). The clinic is drop-in, just turn up, check-in and take a seat. There’s no time-limit on consultations – we make time to listen to complex needs. The clinic is Nurse-Led. The clinicians are funded by Medicare and the University of Tasmania (UTas).

In October 2021, we moved into a purpose-built clinical space that the Launceston City Mission had organised. This was achieved with Tasmanian Government and local community funding from generous donors. Here we have 2 clinical consulting rooms, (with hand-washing facilities - how to make a nurse’s heart glad!), a reception and waiting room, and a dedicated patient toilet.

In March 2022, we were joined by Dr Scott Parkes, a local semi-retired physician. His presence on the team means that it is much easier to always be open – we only close 3 days a year! It is REALLY important to be reliably open.

Since 2022, we have had physiotherapist Dr. Marie-Louise Bird (supported by UTas) attend every second Thursday. It is wonderful to be able to offer her service to people for whom physiotherapy is usually inaccessible.

And now, in February 2024, after finally being successful in obtaining some State Government Funding, the clinic will open 4 days a week. Launceston City Mission has been successful in recruiting other clinicians to volunteer and Jane (NP) will work 2.5 days a week. There will be an RN 1.5 days per week.

We believe this model of care is quite unique in Australia. We are very proud of the health outcomes we have achieved with this collaborative, nurse-led model.

Homelessness is evident everywhere in Australia, city, regional and rural areas. Homelessness brings chaos to people’s lives and keeping appointments becomes incredibly difficult. Homelessness is often the consequence of poverty and paying for healthcare can be prohibitive. Homelessness engenders hopelessness and shame.

Mission Health is the outcome of a community that believes all people have a right to quality healthcare, provided in a setting that speaks to the worth of all people.

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