The decision to severely cut jobs and services at Brisbane’s only free sexual health clinic will result in a drastic increase of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across the state, a HIV specialist has warned.
Following an audit into services provided by the Roma Street Sexual Health Clinic at Biala, the Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MNHHS) announced last week that job cutbacks within Biala originally announced in March were warranted.
News of the original plan to close the clinic outraged the LGBTI community along with other groups including the Queensland Nurses Union, after the MNHHS said Biala’s services were being duplicated and could be offered by local GPs and hospitals. This led to an intervention by the chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) into HIV/AIDS, Dr Darren Russell.
Despite Russell being told that specific HIV services offered in Biala’s Clinic 2 and associated positions would not be affected, MNHHS chair Dr Paul Alexander continued to plan for job cuts to the clinic.
Following an embarrassing fallout where Dr Russell said that he had “been lied to,” an audit into HIV services was commissioned to ensure that services remained “unchanged”. Results of this audit released last week gave the MNHHS the go-ahead to continue with the job cuts and closure of Biala’s STI services in Clinic 1.
After stating that the MNHSS would “be retaining all of our HIV services,” Alexander said that STI services could be offered elsewhere, meaning the closure of Clinic 1.
“We have decided to transfer non-complex sexual health services to the primary health sector, such as GPs and community managed clinics,” Alexander said.
Clinic 2’s specific HIV services will operate as per usual according to the MNHHS with ten jobs being retained. HIV specialist and AOM recipient Dr Wendel Rosevear continued his condemnation of the decision to scale back services.
“We should be quarantining the sexual health service of Biala because it is a state treasure,” Rosevear told Fairfax. “It is a resource that is well known and a resource we can’t afford to lose.”
Russell approached the news regarding Biala’s HIV services cautiously and shared Rosevear’s concerns about the impact that Clinic 1’s closure may have on STIs across the state.
“The most vulnerable populations will fall through the gaps. There really can’t be any cost associated,” Dr Russell said.
Between 28 and 30 people will be offered voluntary redundancies and another six will be transferred to other positions within Queensland Health.