Objectives: The aim of the study was to investigate healthcare provider perceptions of the impact of refugee patients at two public hospitals, one rural and one urban, in designated refugee resettlement areas. Healthcare professionals’ views regarding improvements that could be made in this area were also sought.

Methods: Two page anonymous questionnaires containing demographic, quantitative and open-ended questions were distributed to 150 healthcare providers at each research site.

Results: Response rates were 50% and 49% at the rural and urban sites respectively. Refugees were seen at least monthly by 40% of the respondents. Additional support was requested by 70% of respondents. Confidence was associated with being born overseas (p=0.029) and increased time working with refugees (rs=0.418, p<0.001). Only 47% of respondents felt confident managing social and psychological needs of refugees. Midwives saw refugees more than nursing and allied healthcare staff combined and this was significant at the rural hospital (p<0.001). Rural respondents reported that working with refugees enhanced their practice (p=0.025), although felt significantly less confident (p<0.001) than urban respondents. Themes that arose regarding barriers to care included: language and cultural barriers, paucity of knowledge and issues accessing available services including appropriate interpreters, Medicare eligibility and patient factors including lack of patient trust in government systems. Desire for support was more pronounced in the rural setting (p=0.001).

Conclusions: Refugees were seen frequently in both settings and most respondents requested additional support highlighting that caring for refugees in Australian hospitals is a significant challenge. Additional support and education should be targeted to those helping refugees most frequently, particularly midwifery services, to reduce barriers to care.


Australian hospitals, patient management and care, refugees

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