Article Title

A 'snap shot' of the health of homeless people in inner Sydney: St Vincent's Hospital


Objectives: The poor health profile of people who are homeless results in a disproportionate use of health resources by these people. An in-hospital count of demographic and health data of homeless patients was conducted on two occasions at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney as an indicator of health resource utilisation for the Sydney region.

Methods: Two in-hospital counts were conducted of homeless patients within the boundaries of St Vincent’s Hospital to coincide with the inaugural City of Sydney homeless street counts in winter 2008 and summer 2009. Data collected included level of homelessness, principal diagnosis, triage category, bed occupancy and linkages to services post hospital discharge.

Results: Homeless patients at St Vincent’s utilised over four times the number of acute ward beds when compared with the state average. This corresponds to a high burden of mental health, substance use and physical health comorbidities in homeless people. There was high utilisation of mental health and drug and alcohol services by homeless people, and high levels of linkages with these services post-discharge. There were relatively low rates of linkage with general practitioner and ambulatory care services.

Conclusion: Increasing knowledge of the health needs of the homeless community will assist in future planning and allocation of health services.



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