Sex health team disbanded
A TEAM tasked with treating homeless people has been disbanded while the Cairns Sexual Health clinic faces losing more than four workers under the restructure of the region's health system.Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service board chairman Bob Norman yesterday confirmed the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) had been scrapped to reduce "service duplication".
He said most staff had been transferred to similar services four to the Acute Care Team and six to community care teams based around the district. Three employees were made redundant.
"Our service provision for the homeless will continue under the existing framework of these teams," Mr Norman said.
"The reduction of service duplication and the establishment of the Central Community Care Team is an example of how we are boosting services in mental health.
"We have three community care teams now Northern, Southern and Central.
"These teams include nurses, allied health professionals and indigenous-health workers who case-manage and support people in the community with mental-health needs."
But the Together Union's Cairns organiser Dr Sandy Donald said HOT was a highly specialised team that had a strong rapport with street people.
"To describe this holistic proactive outreach service to parks and shelters as duplication when no other team knows where to locate the clients implies a lack of any understanding of what HOT does," Dr Donald says.
Health campaigners also fear people with sexually-transmitted diseases will suffer as part of the 234 health job cuts announced on Monday.
The Cairns Sexual Health Service is facing the prospect of losing 4.5 positions, including a senior indigenous-health worker, a blood-borne virus project officer, a sexual health worker and a HIV and viral hepatitis virus co-ordinator.
Mr Norman said a decision had not been made about changes at the service.
"We are still in consultation over the proposed restructure to our hospital and health service," he said.
"The proposed changes in Sexual Health will see us refocus services on the clinical care provided at the Cairns Sexual Health Service.
"We will work ... with the FNQ Medicare Local and other NGOs to ensure sexual health services in the Far North remain strong."
Mark Mills, who has campaigned for more resources for the sexual health service, slammed the proposed changes as short-sighted.
"They are dealing with grassroots promotion of public health," he said.
"We don't seem to be seeing much public health promotion through the Campbell Newman Government at the moment. There needs to be further development in grassroots and actually talking to people.
"These positions are crucial."
The Together Union will hold a "Save Our Health" rally at noon on Wednesday to protest the cutbacks.
"The staff remaining in Queensland Health are still waiting to see any detail of how they are expected to continue providing services when critical staff with expertise, dedication and unique corporate knowledge have been shown the door," Dr Donald said.
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Talks vital: Campaigner Mark Mills is outraged by the loss of jobs at the Cairns Sexual Health Service. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS