Medicare funds a line of Item numbers to allow doctors and nurses to perform a “Refugee Health Assessment for refugees and humanitarian entrants”. This is a one-off timed assessment under MBS Items 701 (brief), 703 (standard), 705 (long) or 707 (prolonged). The Medicare requirements for this assessment are outlined in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Health Assessment for Refugees and Other Humanitarian Entrants Fact Sheet.
The Victorian Refugee Health Network, General Practice Victoria and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners have developed a template for the Refugee Health Assessment in collaboration with refugee health specialised GPs, nurses and specialist practioners. The Refugee Health Assessment Tool (2012) is available as a paper tool, and a Medical Director template.
Further information and a rationale for the development of these factsheets can be found in the Network Background paper: Initial health assessment and care (updated 2008).
For more information, visit our Refugee health assessment resource library.
Why perform a comprehensive assessment?
A comprehensive health assessment is recommended for refugees and asylum seekers for a number of reasons:
- entrants often have relatively poor health status and are likely to have had limited access to health care
- some health problems experienced by people from refugee backgrounds are asymptomatic, but nonetheless may have serious long-term health consequences (e.g. intestinal parasitic infection, adult vitamin D deficiency, hepatitis B)
- it optimises the opportunity for early intervention, helping to ensure that physical and psychological problems do not become enduring barriers to settlement
- sensitively administered, a thorough medical examination can contribute to a person’s psychological recovery from torture and trauma experiences
- the health assessment provides scope to inform refugee clients with information about the Australian health system and its services.
Improving access to primary health care for refugees and asylum seekers
Access to primary and specialist services can be difficult for refugees and asylum seekers, especially new arrivals. The Victorian Refugee Health Network established a working group on health assessment and ongoing care in 2007. In 2008 it divided into 2 working groups, one focusing on GP referrals and engagement and the other looking at specialist/hospital based services and management of chronic and complex health needs. These working groups have amalgamated into the Primary Health Care Working Group (established 2012). There are a range of issues that need to be addressed including:
- Building knowledge and understanding of the health care system among refugee communities
- Identifying and training GPs to work with refugees and asylum seekers, particularly in newer settlement areas in outer metro and some regional areas
- Improving referral pathways for refugee clients with complex health needs
- Building the capacity of the primary health care sector to better respond to the needs of refugee clients
- Building the capacity of hospital based services in outer metropolitan and rural & regional areas to better respond to the specific health concerns of refugees including:
- Communicable disease & other serious medical conditions
- Follow-up for TB and HIV undertakings.