Primary Health Care
The need on the streets is great: there were 7,649 healthcare interventions during 2016, an increase of 73% compared to 2015. Riverbank is a practical place as well for GPs and hospital consultants to see their homeless patients, who might otherwise fall off the radar. Riverbank’s primary healthcare services are provided thanks to the voluntary support and in partnership with the HSE, St. James’s Hospital, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and SafetyNet. Treating physical and mental health issues before they turn into A&E visits makes sense from both a humanitarian and an economic perspective.
Nursing and GP Services
Compassion – in the face of tremendous demand – is an essential ingredient to healing at MQI. There were 2,474 nursing interventions in 2016, an increase of 68% compared to 2015. Behind this number are many instances of our nurse, Marguerite, going above and beyond the call of duty – accompanying people to A&E, treating overdoses on the street and giving people respite in the nurse’s room. We mix this with the leading practices on issues such as wound care, blood testing, sexual health, medication management and gender specific health issues.
When Marguerite’s heart told her to leave a permanent job in nursing management and return to healthcare at the front-lines of homelessness, she listened. She hasn’t looked back since;
“If clients come in it’s an opportunity to do all we can – to notice if they’ve lost weight, to see if they’ll do a virus screening or if they need to talk. To be able to provide that level of care, it’s a privilege.”
The Dental Team
The dental service continued to be in high demand across 2016 with a total of 666 individuals receiving treatment from our dental team, an increase of 42% on 2015. The dental service operates on a drop-in basis in the afternoons and a structured appointment based service in the mornings, allowing the dental team to provide longer, extensive treatments including oral surgery, full oral rehabilitation work, molar root canals and surgical extractions. Our dentist Niamh is completely donor funded for the next two years.
We see huge tooth infections, dental trauma from clients getting hurt on the streets, neglect because they have no water or their toothbrushes get stolen. When we’ve done a filling, they are nearly crying with happiness.
The Mental Health Team
In 2016, 315 people accessed our mental healthcare services, an 8% increase on 2015. There were 1,407 appointments provided in 2016, of which significant crisis support was required on 161 occasions. Having the mental health team means that clients no longer have to wait for hours in A&E and can get their issues addressed before they turn into full-blown crises.
Derek, MQI’s Mental Health Nurse, stresses the importance of the service;
“If you think of how isolated people who are homeless can be, it’s no wonder they suffer from illnesses like depression and anxiety. It’s down to our supporters that MQI’s mental health service has expanded, that we’re leading the way a bit. They are changing people’s lives.”
MQI has responded to the ever growing needs of our clients. When basic needs have been taken care of, many people need to avail of other services. The Counselling Service for homeless people works at two levels. Firstly, providing a brief crisis counselling service targeted at service users in distress. Secondly, offering medium to long-term counselling relating to issues such as relationships, bereavement and drug use.
A Young Person’s Support Worker was employed in 2015 to work with young people who come to MQI aged just 18-25. The aim of the position is to enable young people to address the core problems in their lives, link in with training, education and employment services, make a swift exit from homeless services, and move forward with new purpose.
Many homeless people and drug users come to serious harm on the streets, and those who are not engaging with services are at higher risk. Our Assertive Outreach Worker goes out into the streets to make contact with vulnerable drug users who have fallen through the cracks, to provide them with warm clothing and food, and to inform them about accessible accommodation and drug treatment options.