A man wearing a beanie

New mobile clinic to treat homeless with chronic health problems who are living on Sydney’s streets

For Peter Carroll, managing his chronic health conditions is hard enough, but being homeless as well can make the barriers feel insurmountable.

Mr Carroll lives with arthritis and thrombocytosis, a blood disorder.

He is on a waitlist for emergency housing so he can receive a hip replacement.

“I can’t walk very well, so it’s hard to get around town and get to the doctors,” Mr Carroll said.

A new hospital-on-wheels is expected to be a game changer for Mr Carroll and many others sleeping rough on Sydney’s streets.

The van will also help people living in social housing and from Indigenous or culturally diverse backgrounds.(ABC News: Helena Burke)

The St Vincent’s Mobile Health Clinic will provide services ranging from heart and blood checks to telehealth mental health sessions.

St Vincent’s Homeless Health Service nurse unit manager Erin Longbottom says there is a huge health disparity between the general population and people experiencing homelessness.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, people experiencing homelessness face significantly higher rates of death, disability and chronic illness.

“We’re really trying to close that gap between people experiencing homelessness and the general population,” she said.

“The first thing we’re looking at with the truck is chronic diseases management — having a diabetes clinic, high-risk foot clinic, wound care, metabolic care and heart checks.”

A young woman with short dark blonde hair, wearing two T-shirts and a denim jacket smiles as she looks directly at the camera
The service will improve health equity and justice for people who are disadvantaged, according to St Vincent’s Homeless Health Service’s Erin Longbottom.(ABC News: Helena Burke)

For people such as Mr Carroll, having the mobile clinic arrive at local homeless community centers — such as Canice’s Kitchen — will mean he can get his blood checked while having a hot meal.

“It’s a lot easier and more convenient to just get checked up here than have to go through getting a doctor,” Mr Carroll said.

Canice’s Kitchen manager Carrie Deane said she expected regular visits from the health truck to be life-changing for many of the centre’s patrons.

“By bringing it here, to the place where they feel safe, they’re much more inclined to get themselves checked and take the steps necessary to really improve their health,” Ms Deane said.

Mobile health vans are nothing new for Sydney. Street Side Medics and Vinnies Vax Van have been around for a number of years now.

A man in a green beanie and hoodie sits across from a man in a mask, gloves and a puffer jacket inside the mobile clinic
Peter Carroll says visiting the mobile van is easier than trying to get an appointment with a doctor.(ABC News: Helena Burke)

However, the new mobile clinic has the space and facilities to offer more-extensive and long-term care.

Telehealth capabilities will mean nurses can consult with specialist doctors to assess whether a patient needs to linked up to specialized care.

Nurse practitioners on-site will also mean patients can get their recurring prescriptions without having to visit a GP.

The truck’s services also won’t be limited to the city’s homeless population.

People living in social housing and those from Indigenous or culturally diverse backgrounds will also be able to receive medical treatment.

“This is all about improving health equity and justice for people who are disadvantaged, marginalized and who are more likely to experience poor health outcomes because they have a lack of access to health services,” Ms Longbottom said.