Royal College of Physicians seeks better refugee healthcare

Report urges ‘complicated physical and mental healthcare needs . . . must be met’

The report notes that rates of post-traumatic stress disorder are up to 10 times higher among refugees than in the local population

The report notes that rates of post-traumatic stress disorder are up to 10 times higher among refugees than in the local population

 

The Government needs to address the health and social care needs of vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, according to a report from the Royal College of Physicians.

Early health screening and immediate access to healthcare and vaccinations for asylum seekers and refugees should be provided, the report says.

With Ireland having committed to accepting 4,000 new migrants through resettlement and relocation programmes, the report says the needs of all migrants, including undocumented migrants, must be looked after.

“We welcome the Government’s approach to accepting those fleeing war in the Middle East. However, the complicated physical and mental healthcare needs of these people must be met in an appropriate fashion, with adequate interpretation and social supports to encourage full integration into Irish society in the long term,” said co-author of the position paper Anne Dee.

The paper says migrants should be screened early for chronic diseases, mental health issues and infectious diseases by adequately resourced mental and nursing services. There should be immediate access to primary care, sexual health and mental health services that are culturally and linguistically competent.

Additional vaccinations

The report says the health needs of refugees and asylum seekers often differ from those of the indigenous population.

Infectious diseases such as TB, hepatitis B and HIV can be more common, adults and children may need vaccination against diseases such as polio, measles and tetanus, and some migrants may have endured periods of undernutrition, physical strain and mental stress.

Rates of post-traumatic stress disorder are up to 10 times higher among refugees than in the local population, it points out.

Ireland provides healthcare to asylum seekers and refugees, who are eligible for medical cards and can register with a GP. The report says linguistic, cultural and financial barriers limit their access to care in real terms.

It says access to translation services is inconsistent, creating communication barriers between doctors and patients.