What was the problem?
There were 105,237 people experiencing homelessness in Australia on Census night in 2011. This equated to 1 in 200 Australians, and represented an increase of 17% from the 2006, with 4324 people homeless in Brisbane. Done in conjunction with The Big Issue, the aim of this activity is to connect some of the socially disadvantaged groups in Metro North Hospital and Health Service with Oral Health Services in a way that better suits their needs and lifestyle.
How did you solve the problem or take advantage of an opportunity?
Through the development and evolution of a partnership the service has embarked on a journey of engagement and collaboration with disadvantaged groups experiencing homelessness, economic hardship, drug and alcohol addiction and mental health issues. For the past 18 months Metro North Oral Health Services have been regular visitors to meetings, breakfasts, lunches and the Community Street Soccer Program; where they provide health information, take referrals, and act as a pathway to dental care for many who would otherwise lack the knowledge, confidence or resources to seek treatment.
Who was involved?
One part of the project included setting up a drop in clinic for socially disadvantaged clients for a day during Dental Health Week. Two Dental Officers, two Oral Health Therapists, one Principal Dental Assistant, one Dental Assistant, two Administration Officers and the Nurse Manager worked together and a facility was identified near to where these groups meet.
Promotional material was developed locally and distributed to the Big Issue, Salvation Army, Wesley Mission and Teen Challenge. This included a poster about the day, medical history and proxy access forms and the address of the clinic. Contact was made personally with some of the socially disadvantaged to encourage their attendance. Liaison with the social workers and organisers was undertaken to gain assistance with informing clients of the service and assistance with getting them to the service.
What was the outcome?
8 patients attended the clinic on the day which included:
- Patient registration and education about health care rights
- A full examination and a treatment plan, extra-oral radiography and oral hygiene instruction
Scale and cleans, dental treatment and ongoing plans for future treatment
How are your services evolving through engagement?
Metro North Hospital and Health Service and The University of Queensland (UQ) have entered into an Alliance to integrate oral health education, research and clinical services at Herston. The formation of the Alliance presented an enormous opportunity to provide extra capacity for the service. Our Senior Coordinator has explored new pathways for referrals including Ozcare Homeless Hostel, Wesley Mission and formed a regular refugee clinic to manage the growing numbers of patients requiring treatment within an appropriate time frame according to state guidelines.
As a team we have displayed an acute understanding of these stakeholders, their priorities, needs and expectations. Staff have treated these groups with empathy and understanding and handled any issues arising with diplomacy and we are evolving through engagement.