Closing the Gap, improving health outcomes for First Nations people by Monica Qiao


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St Vincent’s Clinic Foundation is located on the traditional land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.  We value health equality as a fundamental right for all and recognise the vulnerable populations in our community and the need for targeted research.

In 2023, the Foundation awarded several grants for community health services and related research towards improving health outcomes for First Nations people.

Ahead of National Close the Gap Day, we heard from Monica Qiao, a grant recipient and Inclusive Health Project Manager at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney.  Through extensive consultation with First Nations patients, the community, and SVHNS staff, the project aims to better understand the First Nations patient experience and factors contributing to unplanned readmissions.

Across NSW, First Nations patients have a higher rate of unplanned readmissions than non-First Nations patients, and often, these readmissions are avoidable.  Specifically, First Nations concepts of health and wellbeing are not currently incorporated into treatment and discharge planning processes.  Health service communication with First Nations patients is not always culturally appropriate, and First Nations patients are not always identified by staff.

As a result, First Nations patients have reported that they often do not feel culturally safe, reporting experiences of racism, feelings of shame, and re-traumatisation.  This can often cause First Nations patients to leave the hospital against medical advice or without an appropriate plan in place, which disempowers them from being able to follow up on their healthcare in the community.  Consequently, their health may deteriorate, resulting in unplanned readmission.

The project seeks to inform future service design, including equipping staff to care for First Nations patients in a way that meets their cultural needs.  It aims to ensure that First Nations patients have access to equitable healthcare that accepts the interconnectedness of the person, their community, and their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual realms of wellbeing.

To help fund research taking place on the St Vincent’s Darlinghurst Health Innovation Precinct, please click here to donate now.

Image supplied by a Yarn’n Circle member holding her late mother’s hand. It demonstrates the importance of connection, family, and kinship in First Nations culture.