MEDIA RELEASE 29th June 2017
STREET HEALTH’S URGENT CALL TO HELP EASE WA HEALTH COSTS
The State Government’s recent announcement that health costs were under the microscope reinforces just how important the Street Health service is in helping to prevent hospital presentations by people who are homeless who often have multiple complex health needs.
Street Health is run by Homeless Healthcare and each week day its nurses seek out rough sleepers, many of whom have physical and mental health issues that have not been treated.
“At a time when the government is looking to curb health costs, the amount required to run the Street Health service is minuscule when compared to the potential cost savings and reduced drain on the WA Health system,” says Stephen Hall from Shelter WA.
Dr Amanda Stafford sees this first hand in the emergency department at Royal Perth Hospital: “Due to its inner city location, we see many people who are homeless in the RPH emergency department. Street Health is the “eyes on the street” for the most marginalised of the rough sleepers in the Perth CBD, who never seek out medical attention”.
“Street Health starts the process of linking these people into long term GP care with Homeless Healthcare. But they also find really sick people in parks, in doorways and other public places and bring them to RPH Emergency Department before they die on the streets.” Dr Stafford said.
However funding for the Street Health service runs out on June 30. Founder Dr Andrew Davies said “the need for this service continues to grow – with the current climate of economic downturn, widespread job losses, and the lack of affordable housing, we are seeing increasing levels of homelessness in WA.”
Researchers at the University of Western Australia are currently undertaking an evaluation of Homeless Healthcare, the umbrella organisation for the Street Health service.
Lead researcher, Associate Professor Lisa Wood said “whilst the evaluation is in early stages, preliminary data shows that the Street Health team is diagnosing and treating health issues that if left neglected, would escalate and require more expensive hospital services”.
Shelter WA’s Stephen Hall said that Street Health is working with Perth’s most vulnerable rough sleepers, and is calling for the State Government to commit to 3 year funding of the Street Health program to help ease the health cost burden to the State’s budget.
Case studies compiled as part of the UWA evaluation highlight the positive financial impact Street Health is already making on WA’s health system. One example is Beth (not her real name) a homeless woman in her forties who had presented to RPH Emergency Department regularly over the last 5 years, on average 14 times per year. In August 2016 the Street Health team noticed an ulcer on her lip that was not healing, and after a series of tests, this ended up being a cancer requiring surgery
As observed by Dr Stafford, “this early intervention enabled by Street Health is far more cost effective for the health system than if Beth’s cancer had progressed further, and Street Health support meant that her pre-surgery care was able to meet through outpatient appointments rather than an admission.”
Associate Professor Lisa Wood who is heading up the Homeless Healthcare evaluation says “It doesn’t matter what metric you want to look at, all of the indicators suggest that the Street Health service is making an important difference; to public health, the state purse, and people on the street all stand to win”.
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a crowdfunding campaign was launched this week to try and raise funds to keep Street Health going Crowdfunding link is https://chuffed.org/project/streethealth