Bayswater: Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service to receive State Government grant amid closure fears

DYHS Autumn Centre clients Ian Gore, Barbara Sturt and Deloras Dingo.
DYHS Autumn Centre clients Ian Gore, Barbara Sturt and Deloras Dingo.

FEARS of the closure of a well-known Aboriginal health service in Bayswater could be allayed with WA Country Health Service funding a further grant.

The Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service has been operating at the Elizabeth Hansen Autumn Centre on Guildford Road for more than 20 years.

It is a residential hostel that provides accommodation for Aboriginal people undergoing medical treatment.

There are 32 beds at the centre, with more than 200 people accessing the service in the past three years.

The WA Country Health Service withdrew recurrent operational funding for the centre three years ago.

Since then, DYHS attempted to self-fund 70 per cent of operations and recently introduced a nightly gap charge for each client and carer.

In November 2018, WACHS provided one-off funding of about $80,000 to cover the cost of six beds for six months.

In response to the Closing the Gap report released today, DYHS chairwoman Jackie Oakley said the service was unable to get recurrent funding of about $550,000 a year from the State Government to keep the service.

“Without this minimal level of funding we cannot sustain the service and will be forced to shut the doors,” she said.

Ms Oakley wrote to Health Minister Roger Cook in December and other stakeholders but she did not receive responses from the Minister’s office, Office of the Director General or the WACHS.

In response to questions from Community News today, Mr Cook said the WACHS advised him that a further grant would be provided to enable the autumn centre to operate beyond March 31.

“The State Government has an election commitment to support Aboriginal patients and their carers’ visiting Perth for medical treatment, this includes ensuring the availability of culturally appropriate accommodation,” he said.

“In addition, the WACHS has commenced an analysis of existing culturally appropriate Aboriginal accommodation arrangements to assess future demand.”

Ms Oakley said the service made all reasonable attempts to keep the facility open by cutting staff costs and activities.

“There is no doubt the Elizabeth Hansen Autumn Centre fills a gap in much-needed culturally appropriate residential housing for patients visiting Perth from remote locations, but without a serious commitment of funds, we will have no alternative but to withdraw as a service provider,” she said.

“While some accommodation costs are funded on behalf of clients by the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme and/or the East Metropolitan Health Service, many clients have been asked to dig into their own pockets to fund their stay.

“This can be financially taxing and stressful for people from remote areas who are from low socio-economic backgrounds, very unwell and away from their family supports.”

She said the East Metropolitan Health Service estimated that Perth was currently short at least 25 hostel beds for Aboriginal medical patients.