ACCESSING necessary health services will be easier for the Top End’s LGBTI community when a trial of monthly medical clinics commence June 20. A second clinic has been scheduled for July.
Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC) executive director Kim Gates told the Star Observer she welcomes the first ever LGBTI specific health clinic in the Territory and hopes the trial becomes a permanent monthly fixture.
The first clinic next month will be facilitated by Dr Ruth McNair, a Melbourne GP who is also an internationally known lesbian health researcher and chairperson of the Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia.
But the Darwin LGBTI Clinic trial is not funded – Dr McNair is doing it out of goodwill supplemented by patient fees and bulk billing.
Dr Stewart said she came up with the idea of a specialised clinic from her positive experience focusing on LGBTI healthcare while working at Melbourne’s Northside Clinic.
“I wanted to see a model like that in Darwin. We are already familiar with that fly-in fly-out model of bringing in specialists,” Dr Stewart said.
“My dream is that this trial will become a regular monthly clinic, but to do that and for it to be truly sustainable we’ll need to get external funding which I’m working on at the moment.
“I can work out the logistics of running the clinic. There are fantastic doctors queuing to come up here and help at this clinic, we need to be able to pay their flights and accommodation.”
The plan is to have a monthly regular clinic with a different doctor sourced from a small pool of GPs who each having skills in LGBTI health.
Dr Stewart has been working with NTAHC to identify the particular needs of the community and what would best service them.
“Currently, there is no identified GPs prescribing HIV medication or trans person hormones in Darwin who are particularly comfortable,” she said.
“The intention of the clinic is to provide a broad expert service to the LGBTI community.”
Dr Stewart sees the first two clinics as a trial to gauge community response and whether they wants this health service.
“I would love people in Darwin to have access to Australia’s best LGBTI doctors here at home. I’ve seen the wonderful benefits to individuals and the sense of community when a clinic provides experienced LGBTI care,” she said.
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