MBS Primary Care Items
Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Health assessment for refugees and other humanitarian entrants
Fact sheet giving details of health assessments for refugees and other humanitarian entrants under Medicare items 701, 703, 705 and 707.
Health assessment for refugees and other humanitarian entrants (PDF 157 KB)
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The health assessment for refugees and other humanitarian entrants may be completed under MBS Items 701 (brief), 703 (standard), 705 (long) or 707 (prolonged) depending on the length of the consultation which will be determined by the complexity of the patient’s presentation.
This health assessment is for refugees and other humanitarian entrants who often arrive in Australia with complex and unusual medical conditions resulting from their area of origin or previous living conditions.
Some refugees or other humanitarian entrants will have little experience of western health care systems and this health assessment provides an opportunity to introduce these patients to preventive health care in Australia, in particular immunisation, maternal and child health care, and breast and cervical screening. Many will have been exposed to war, famine, repression, torture and/or extreme poverty. The health assessment should be undertaken in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of the patient.
Components of the health assessment for refugees and other humanitarian entrantsThe health assessment must include the assessment of the patient’s physical, psychological and social functioning and whether preventive health care and education should be offered to the patient to improve their health. Psychological history should take into account possible sequelae of torture and other forms of trauma. Clinical investigations will vary with country of origin, age, gender and any previous tests. Consider the following based on clinical need: FBC, iron studies; malaria Ag+/- film, Schistosomiasis and Strongyloides serology; Hepatitis B & C; serum vitamin D; faecal examination for parasites; STI screen, further TB (ie latent infection) and HIV assessment; catch-up immunisation and relevant preventative health checks.
The medical practitioner should keep a record of the health assessment and offer to provide the patient with a written report about the health assessment. Patient consent to the health assessment should be documented in the patient’s record.
In addition to the general requirements for health assessments, this assessment should include the development of a management plan to address any issues and/or conditions, including arranging for any necessary interventions or referrals to other health care providers. This plan should be developed in collaboration with the patient, and documented in a written report that is offered to the patient.
The management plan should include:
- planned follow-up of issues and/or conditions found in history, examination and investigations, including initiating management to meet identified needs of the patient;
- initial recommendation concerning immunisation, nutrition, vitamin supplementation and medications;
- consideration of referrals to allied health professionals, approved professionals and/or specialist clinics to address issues of torture and trauma; and
- consideration of contraception advice and review of pap smear/sexually transmitted disease screening.
Not all refugees arrive in Australia with medical records. For those who have, it may be useful to obtain a copy, such as those of previous health assessments that may have been undertaken pre-departure. For example, some refugees may receive some form of medical records prior to their flight to Australia if their pre-departure health assessment found any health problems, or they had received treatment, or they had signed a “health undertaking” document at the time of the visa grant.
A patient with a “health undertaking” has been assessed as having specific health issues such as hepatitis or inactive tuberculosis that needs to be addressed in Australia. By signing the undertaking, the refugee agrees to report to the Health Undertaking Service and for follow-up with their respective State or Territory health authority.
RestrictionsThe health assessment is a voluntary one-off service and must be provided within twelve months of the person’s arrival in Australia or grant of visa. The medical practitioner should not conduct a separate consultation in conjunction with the health assessment on the same day, except where it is clinically required (ie. the patient has an acute problem that needs to be managed separately from the assessment).
Patient EligibilityThe health assessment is available to people with the following visas:
- Subclass 200 (Refugee) visa
- Subclass 201 (In-country Special Humanitarian) visa
- Subclass 202 (Global Special Humanitarian) visa
- Subclass 203 (Emergency Rescue) visa
- Subclass 204 (Women at Risk) visa
- Subclass 070 (Refugee Pending Bridging) visa
- Subclass 695 (Return Pending) visa
- Subclass 786 (Temporary (Humanitarian Concern)) visa
- Subclass 866 (Protection) visa.
- a travel card known as a Document for Travel to Australia (DFTTA);
- a travel document including a Passport, a Titre de Voyage or a Certificate of Identity; or
- a Visa Evidence Card identified by the numbers PLO56 or M56.
Interpreter and Proposer AssistanceA free telephone interpreter can be arranged through the TIS Doctor’s Priority Line 131 450. Time taken in using an interpreter can contribute to the total Health Assessment time. An on-site interpreter can be arranged subject to their availability. It is advisable to make the booking with TIS well in advance of the appointment date (at least 2 weeks) to ensure availability of an interpreter. Request for an on-site interpreter must be in writing using a form provided by TIS which can be faxed through on 1300 654 151 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
A proposer is a friend, relative or community organisation who has agreed to assist the person to settle in Australia. Proposers only apply to visa class 202, Global Special Humanitarian. A proposer may be able to provide useful information about the patient on matters such as physical, psychological and social functioning but should not be used as an interpreter.
Guidelines and ResourcesMedical practitioners are encouraged to utilise relevant guidelines and resources, such as:
- Item descriptors and explanatory notes from MBS Online
- Information about MBS primary care items at the MBS Primary Care Items page or phone the Medicare Australia provider enquiry line on 132 150.
- Telephone interpreter service: Telephone 131 450
- Information regarding the ‘Health Undertaking Service’ from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website or phone the national telephone service enquiry line 131 881
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners' Cultural and linguistic diversity clinical resources
- RACGP Refugee and Asylum Seeker Resource website providing useful links to assist with asylum seekers’ health needs
- Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) Diagnosis, management and prevention of infections in recently arrived refugees (2009)
- Desktop guide to caring for refugee patients in general practice (2007)
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