St Vincent’s strengthens support service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients

Aboriginal Health Liaison Officers

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Rita El Ouchami, Soupoura Charles, Ava Jarrett and Rhys Radcliffe

A reimagined 7-day service with improved referral pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients has been introduced at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

Five new Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers form part of a new team that will offer a more focused level of care to Indigenous patients and their families when navigating the health and social services they need, while taking into careful consideration their wider cultural background.

Rita El Ouchami, one of St Vincent’s new Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers says she is proud to be part of a team whose work is aimed at improving Indigenous health.

“I want to help make a change for our people – to help them feel safe and comfortable asking questions to a doctor or nurse because traditionally a lot of them feel scared or weak doing this,” says Rita.

“Through our service, we hope our patients will be more at ease just knowing they have another Indigenous person with them who can help to explain things and get them the care they need in a way that respects their culture.” 

Improved access and support

An Electronic Journey Board is now being used by hospital staff to seek assistance from the Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer (AHLO) service, including secondary consultations with clinicians that work at St Vincent’s.

According to Nicole Watt, Team Leader of the Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Service at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, the digital approach will make workflow smoother for the AHLOs and minimise interruptions to their workday.

“This prioritisation pathway tool will assist us in identifying the priority order of each referral and that we support those in immediate need first,” explains Nicole.

“It will give our Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers greater opportunity to provide uninterrupted and inclusive support and cultural companionship to the patients in our care.”

Building connections

The new AHLO team is based at St Vincent’s Hospital’s Fitzroy campus and will also provide cultural advice and support to clinicians and staff responsible for the healthcare needs of the Hospital’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

“St Vincent’s Aboriginal Health Unit is working collaboratively to provide a more accessible Aboriginal Liaison service that meets the unique cultural needs of all of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients,” says Nicole.

“We are committed to the quality and continuous improvement of the service and hope this will create a connection and trust between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community and our Hospital.”