DOCTORS LOOK FOR NEW HEALTH MODEL
Professionals are trying to solve the problem of people from disadvantaged backgrounds receiving poorer medical care
A NEW report has found people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Mt Druitt and Blacktown receive poorer health care and face significant barriers to coping with chronic diseases.
However, a band of flexible health professionals are experimenting with new ways to provide comprehensive care where it is most needed.
Western Sydney University partnered with Australian National University to look at how frontline health services cope in Blacktown and Mt Druitt and what to do to improve the situation.
The report found the area has some of the highest rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, asthma and type 2 diabetes.
It also found less time was spent with patients from lower socio-economic backgrounds on top of gaps in health funding that makes it less likely those people will seek health care.
Glendenning GP Dr Hani Bittar, who was on a panel that helped inform the report, said health services in the region were “underfunded and under resourced”.
“There are two (gap) areas: No.1 is mental health and No.2 is related to body weight and diabetes or cardiovascular,” Dr Bittar said.
Report author and WSU Department of General Practice chair Professor Jenny Reath is a GP and has worked at the Mt Druitt Aboriginal Medical Service on and off since 1987.
She said the current health system meant local GPs struggled to meet the needs of the community.
“It isn’t just health needs but com- plex ones such as mental health but also socioeconomic disadvantage,” she said. “They have problems with transport, housing and accessing medical care you have to pay for.”
Dr Bittar’s practice is trying to solve health problems with innovative ideas.
It is running the Patient Centred Medical Home program which gives a holistic level of care: access to a GP, psychologist, exercise physiologist, dietitian, physiotherapist and registered nurses under the one roof.
Dr Bittar believes this is the best way to manage complex illness but says funding models need to change to make it more viable.
“Because a GP is the only person they can see for free they keep coming to us,” he said. “Medicare doesn’t focus on that problem.”
Dr Hani Bittar and psychologist Gillian Hawkins are running a Patient Centred Medical Home program.