The 5th Irish Street Medicine Symposium, 27 & 28 September 2019

Working together to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society

Today, Friday 27 September, the fifth Irish Street Medicine Symposium takes place in Cork in the Metropole hotel, and will continue tomorrow, Saturday 28th September, in the Western Gateway Building, University College Cork (UCC). The event brings together a growing community of health and social care workers, academics, policy makers and service users from around Ireland, to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society, such as those who are homeless, people who use drugs, prisoners and migrants.

The event this year is hosted by the Adult Homeless Integrated Team of Cork Kerry Community Healthcare and Safetynet Primary Care with support from HSE Social Inclusion; the Department of General Practice at University College Cork, Crosscare and Cork City Council

Over the two days, attendees work together to combat service fragmentation, share information and innovations that break traditional ways of working, and to create effective health care solutions for the most challenging cases and situations.  

The symposium is an excellent networking opportunity which aims to inspire collaboration and information-sharing between delegates. Attendees are encouraged to move away from the insular ways of working, and together devise solutions to improve health outcomes for the most disadvantaged in our society.

Dr Fiona O’Reilly, Safetynet Primary Care, explains the idea behind the event:  

“We believe there is power in sharing ideas and experience of what works and indeed what doesn’t to improve the health and access to care for the people we work with.   This event enables networking, innovation and improved service.” 

Dr Anna Marie Naughton, Adult Homeless Integrated Team, agrees with this sentiment, stating:

“There is alchemy to bringing this diversity of expertise and passion together for the benefits of those who live on the margins”

Presentations and workshops cover a wide range of topics representing issues facing marginalised groups, and innovative initiatives designed to improve access to care.  The first ever Hospital Consultant in Inclusion Health Medicine - Dr Cliona Ní Cheallaigh, St James Hospital – and Ciaran Browne, HSE General Manager, National Acute Operations, will present on the hospital experience for people who are homeless and provide an update on the innovative homeless hospital discharge programme.

Bob Jordan, National Housing First Director, will provide an update on the national roll-out of Housing First programmes which provides rough sleepers in long term homelessness with permanent housing and necessary wrap-around health and social supports. 

Chris O Donnell who experienced being homeless, shares insights into the impact of stigma and depression arising from her experience. NGOs such as Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) and the Dublin Simon Community (DSC) share learning from implementing initiatives such as naloxone (the antidote to heroin overdose) Training & Prescribing and alcohol detox programmes.

Mr Joe Doyle, HSE Social Inclusion Office, commends the joint effort to improve access to health services for marginalised communities:

“Poverty and social exclusion have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the population. This annual event is a demonstration of the partnership approach, supported by the HSE, to improve access to mainstream and targeted health services for people from disadvantaged groups and reduce inequalities in health.

Prof Colin Bradley, Dept of General Practice, UCC, says:

“We are delighted to support this event again which resonates closely with learning about the complex relationships between social deprivation and health that we explore in our research and endeavour to impart to our students.”

Key themes of the event also highlight the issue of high prevalence of mental illness among the homeless population, and the relatively new understanding of the role trauma has to play in addiction and exclusion. The issue of migration and vulnerability sees the ‘global homeless’ in the form of asylum seeker and other migrant groups appear in increasing numbers in emergency accommodation requiring agencies expand their remit to include this emerging vulnerable group.

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Last updated on: 27 / 09 / 2019