South Australians experiencing homelessness now have access to a free health clinic tailored to their needs, through a partnership involving the University of South Australia.
UniSA is working with The Salvation Army and the SOS Health Foundation on a new health clinic staffed by final-year undergraduate physiotherapy and podiatry students, who will work under the supervision of qualified clinical educators.
The pro bono Open Door Health Clinic, which provides physiotherapy and podiatry services to adults in crisis or experiencing homelessness, was conceived by UniSA researcher Dr Katia Ferrar.
“People experiencing homelessness suffer many of the same conditions as the rest of the population, but they also suffer some unique complaints,” Dr Ferrar says.
“Sleeping rough, homeless people often experience low back and neck pain. Plus, as many don’t have appropriate footwear, they can present with toenail issues and injuries to their feet.
“This clinic hopes to improve the health and well-being of at risk and under-served people in Adelaide, particularly those experiencing homelessness and people in crisis.”
It will go some way to helping the more than 5000 South Australians who experience homelessness on any given night, while benefiting students.
“The clinic will deliver rewarding, hands-on learning experiences for the students,” Dr Ferrar says.
“It will encourage students to improve their clinical skills, make them more flexible in their delivery of health care, all the while opening their eyes to at risk communities.
“It’s very important that the students develop a strong sense of social justice to hopefully take strong steps to becoming ethical practitioners.
“I hope this clinic will serve as a model for other universities to provide a rich learning opportunity while improving the health of disadvantaged Australians.”
When students are not practising, the clinic will be staffed by qualified volunteer therapists, a service organised by SOS Health Foundation.
SOS Health Foundation manager Lynda Cunningham says the services will be highly valued, having operated pro bono physio clinics in Melbourne and Brisbane since 2013.
“Seeking out healthcare is often not a priority for people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk,” Cunningham says.
“Having an accessible service in Adelaide will give individuals hope that there is a solution to some of their long term physical problems.”
Dr Ferrar was named as an AMP Tomorrow Maker in 2016 in acknowledgement of her work on the Open Door Health Clinic.
The Open Door Health Clinic began operating earlier this month at The Salvation Army Building, 277 Pirie Street, Adelaide. It will open every Wednesday between 1pm and 4:30pm. Appointments and walk-ins are welcome. All services are free.