‘Fragmented care’: Asylum seekers’ experience of accessing health care in NSW

Zelalem Mengesha, Danielle Weber, Mitchell Smith, Patrick Harris, Fiona Haigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Medicare is central to accessing health care in Australia, yet many asylum seekers are ineligible for this scheme. In NSW, Medicare ineligible asylum seekers have some access to public health care under the Medicare Ineligible Asylum Seekers - Provision of Specified Public Health Services policy. This policy was updated in November 2020 to clarify services where a fee waiver applies for asylum seekers without Medicare. We examined the experiences of Medicare ineligible asylum seekers in accessing health care in New South Wales (NSW) in light of the revised policy. Employing qualitative methods, we conducted semi-structured interviews with asylum seekers (n = 7) and service providers (n = 6) in South Western Sydney. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis and the socio-ecological model was used to interpret the data. Participants identified that chronic and mental health conditions are the main health issues for asylum seekers. Factors across the four levels of the socio-ecological model were identified as influencing the health care of asylum seekers, including a lack of awareness about health care rights at the individual level, support from relatives and friends at the interpersonal level, providers’ lack of awareness of fee waivers at the organizational level and limited access to primary health care at the policy level. The results imply that Medicare ineligible asylum seekers in NSW do not have optimal access to health care which may worsen existing health disparities. Educational initiatives that improve service providers’ and asylum seekers’ awareness of the revised policy are needed to improve asylum seeker health equity in NSW.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Promotion International
Volume38
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

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