Medicine at the margins

Dr Andrew Davies with patient Zane. d403250
Dr Andrew Davies with patient Zane. d403250

With a team of six doctors and four nurses, he provides medical care to patients across Perth, including visitors of Northbridge drop-in centre Ruah Community Services, Tranby Day Centre in East Perth and The Shopfront in Maylands.

He said about two-thirds of his clients had drug and alcohol problems, 50 per cent had mental health afflictions and 50 per cent suffered physical health issues.

Many endure all three as well as a history of trauma such as sexual abuse.

‘We treat these people with a view to helping them get back into housing,’ he said.

‘It’s great to see some of them move forward and get restabilised, but you have to have a lot of patience because it takes time. It happens over many years ” it is not an instant fix.’

The West Leederville doctor said securing funding was his biggest challenge, along with encouraging patients to use the hospital system.

‘We have people who are very willing to come in and see us but have had bad experiences in hospitals and therefore won’t go there when they need to,’ he said.

‘This means we have to be prepared to do more than we would in a normal GP practice.

‘We come to Ruah twice a week. Ideally I would like to see from 12 to 14 people in four hours but it’s usually at least double that, which causes more challenges.

‘Getting staff is also difficult; there is a shortage of doctors which makes it even harder when dealing with fringe people.’

Dr Davies and his team spend half the week visiting clinics and the other half attending to patients at the organisation’s transition centre on Angove Street in North Perth.