‘Access’ youth clinic is a bulk-billed medical service that operates on Mondays from 1.30pm-5.30pm at 1st floor, 3 Lyon Street Leongatha and is specifically set up for young people to attend in their own right on a ‘drop in’ basis.
Its customers range from primary school age children through to 20 year-olds, although the majority falls within the clinic’s target group of assisting 14- to17-year-olds.
In addition to a General Practitioner (from Leongatha Medical Centre), the service has a registered nurse and on a fortnightly basis, a psychologist.
The clinic provides medicine/health services (with prescription costs supported in cases of financial hardship), health screening, education and skills development for the young people.
Seeking funding support for the clinic and partnership with other community service providers, Access clinic workers Dr. Sinead de Gooyer and Registered Nurse Anna Close-Mewett, accompanied by Gippsland Southern Health Service (GSHS) Health Promotion Officer Julia Lomas, explained about the clinic’s work in a presentation to South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday.
Although it has only been in operation for seven months, the number of young people attending the clinic has already exceeded expectations and the presenters explained their need to expand as well as the need of local youth for the service.
They advised that they had also recently been approached by UnitingCare Gippsland to add youth counselling services.
To date the service has received quite an amount of donated support in the way of furniture, heaters, computer equipment, DVDs and DVD player and more, from local businesses and community organisations such as Lions although Dr de Gooyer mentioned disappointment that many local businesses employing adolescents had declined the clinic’s requests for help.
Dr de Gooyer underlined the need for the clinic by listing statistics about the number of young people in the Shire and in particular the relatively high rate of those from families with limited income or those who were out of school and not fully employed.
She also provided figures on types of attendance at the clinic to date, with female patients (76%) significantly outnumbering males.
At 37% of appointments, general medical requests were the most frequent reason for clinic visits, however other needs included mental health (30%), sexual health (19%), contraception (10%), pregnancy (2%) and results review (2%), with 0% attending in relation to drugs/alcohol care.
Sixty per cent of the clinic patients were aged 16-18 years, 17% 14-15 years, 14% 19-21 years, six per cent 12-13 years and three per cent were aged 22 years or older.
Of these, Dr de Gooyer noted that 57% were secondary students, 24% were TAFE students, three per cent were primary school students and five per cent were employed with the remaining 11% either unemployed or in part-time work.
She expressed concern that 15% of clinic customers were not living in the family home and that a further two per cent were homeless.
Based on the demonstration of need for the youth clinic, Dr de Gooyer asked Council what support it could provide to assist the clinic’s ongoing viability.
She also asked Council about the importance it gave to youth-specific issues and what actions it was undertaking to implement its youth policies.
(Council’s youth policies are contained within the Council Plan 2010-2014 which is available on Council’s web site or on CD or hard copy on request at Council reception.
The Council Plan should also be available to browse in local library branches.
The Shire also has a Youth Advisory Council comprised of a range of young people.)
Pointing out that State and Federal Governments had the financial responsibility for funding health and medical services, Cr Jennie Deane asked the presenters about approaches they had made to those governments for funding.
In reply, she was advised that a funding application had been sought via GSHS.
Cr Deane also asked for a more detailed presentation and discussion on the topic at a future date.
Cr Mimmie Jackson commented that Council’s Youth Advisory Council was very supportive of the clinic and although unable to help in a material way, planned to visit to see the service at firsthand and spread the message about the clinic.
At the presentation’s conclusion, Mayor Cr Warren Raabe said, “All we can promise is to take your presentation as a budget submission for the 2011/12 year.”