MEDIA RELEASE: Health Justice Partnership a success for patients in need

On the 14th June 2016, RLC's HJP with the Sydney Local Health District showed that the innovative model provided legal support for 62 vulnerable hospital patients in its first six months, who would not have accessed assistance otherwise.

The Health Justice Partnership is a first of its kind initiative in NSW. It places a Redfern Legal Centre solicitor in the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for two days per week to provide legal assistance to patients and train hospital staff in identifying legal issues. A recent six month evaluation of the partnership shows:

  • 80 percent of clients would not have otherwise accessed legal support
  • 50% of service users needed legal support with domestic violence issues
  • Hospital staff have learned to identify social, economic or legal issues

Joanna Shulman, CEO Redfern Legal Centre says the evaluation highlights the success of this collaborative approach to early intervention.

“Vulnerable patients often have much more than their physical health to deal with,” she said. “Issues such as domestic violence, child protection and housing severely impact on patients’ health and wellbeing. Legal support helps solve those connected issues.”

“Due to decreasing government funding, we rely on philanthropic funding to keep this vital partnership running,” Ms Shulman said. “The Gandevia Foundation has been a strong supporter of the Health Justice Partnership and we are urgently seeking more external support to help this partnership continue.”

RLC solicitor Sue –Ellen Hills sees the partnership working on the ground everyday.

“A good example was a new mother in the post-natal ward after having given birth,” she says. “She had recently separated from the father and there had been a history of domestic violence. The father attempted to see the mother, security was called, and he fled.”

“I saw her the next day, explained the Apprehended Domestic Violence Application process, assisted her to give a further statement, and provided the link to our Sydney Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, this meant that she didn’t have to keep re-telling the story, and was able to speak with our SWDVCAS staff from her hospital room. We also provided legal advice on parenting post separation, how to ensure hers and the baby’s safety, fulfilling child protection authorities requirements, and how to report a breach of the AVO,” she said.

The Health-Justice Partnership movement is gaining momentum. Following Redfern Legal Centre’s lead, other law firms and organisations in the State are in the process of establishing their own partnerships.