Australian healthcare system fails refugees, migrants: study

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CANBERRA, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) — Refugees and migrants are missing out on important health services in Australia, a study has found.

The study, published by researchers from Flinders University on Thursday, found that Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are not equipped to meet the needs of refugees and migrants.

PHNs exist to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of treatment for patients in Australia, particularly those at risk of poor health outcomes.

Australia has welcomed more than 170,000 refugees over the last decade and millions of migrants. As of 2018, 29 percent of the nation’s population was born overseas.

Anna Ziersch from the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University led the study of 31 PHNs across Australia, finding that more than half were not working with refugees and migrants at all.

“Particularly in light of generally poorer health status of refugees and migrants, we found much more needs to be done for these groups,” she said in a media release.

“Regional primary health care organisations need long-term investment and organizational stability to build and maintain collaborations with migrant and refugee groups.

“In one part of the study, we found that more than half of the PHNs were not working in migrant and refugee health at all and that only 16% of PHN respondents said they had been ‘successful’ or ‘very successful’ in migrant and refugee health.

“Clearly public health service gaps for both refugees and migrants are not being adequately recognized and met.”

The study found that major hurdles for recent arrivals in Australia seeking medical care were the language barrier, consultant costs and difficulty navigating Australia’s health system.

It called for migrant and refugee health to be prioritized in population health planning, inclusion of refugee and migrant voices in PHN governance and more flexible funding models.

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