Australia's first comprehensive care centre for ex-servicemen and women pilots at Concord Hospital
Australia’s first comprehensive care centre offering specialist physical and mental healthcare services for veterans has opened at Concord Hospital.
The National Centre for Veterans’ Healthcare provides world-class integrated care from a range of medical and allied health specialities to former Australian Defence Force personnel.
There are about 60,000 Australian servicemen and women who have served over the last two decades, including as peacekeepers, in Rwanda, East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Solomon Islands.
The Centre will fill an identified gap in the provision of healthcare services for veterans, who can struggle when transitioning back to civilian life. Many veterans leave military life with physical injuries and a range of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Chair of the Centre, Colonel Professor Robert “Bob” Lusby AM, says transitioning to civilian life will be made a little easier for veterans with a dedicated “one-stop-shop” model of care.
“Veterans have seen things and done things which are extraordinary and often they keep it in and sooner or later some of these people will need our help, and it is our duty to help them,” Professor Lusby said.
The Centre aims to reduce the barriers veterans may face in seeking help from health professionals and families and carers are encouraged to participate in setting goals and developing treatment plans.
Veterans will be offered outpatient treatment including drug health services, rehabilitation and pain management, from staff who have been specially-trained to deal with the unique challenges veterans may present with.
Minister for Veterans John Sidoti visited the Centre during its first month of operation. He met staff including Operations Manager Kirsty Chapman, Medical Director Cameron Korb-Wells and Professor Lusby.
Mr Sidoti said he was impressed to hear the Centre had received 16 referrals in its first few weeks.
“Our military personnel put their life on the line in service to this country, so it is incumbent on all of us to support them as best we can when they need our help,” Mr Sidoti said.
“I am very proud the NSW Government is leading the way in veterans’ health care with this centre, which will help our vets with their physical injuries and support their mental wellbeing.”
Mr Sidoti also met with Major Andrew Lam, a current Concord Hospital patient and veteran of East Timor and the Solomon Islands.
Major Lam, an Australian Army Reservist, said he had seen many men and women struggle to transition to civilian life after a tour of duty.
“A service like this could be a game-changer for many veterans,” he said.
“Having everything in one place without long delays for appointments could catch issues before they become too much.”
Major Lam said he required a “period of adjustment” each time he returned home and having a service that catered for both physical and mental issues would allow veterans to be treated holistically.
“I even had to leave home for a while because it was too quiet. I had to move closer to a freeway and welcomed the semi-trailers flying past my window”.
Sydney Local Health District Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson AM said Concord Hospital has provided support and care for Australia’s military and veteran community since it opened as a military hospital in 1941.
“The $341 million stage 1 redevelopment of Concord Hospital provides an opportunity for Concord to once again lead the way in veterans’ healthcare,” Dr Anderson said.
The Centre will be housed in a purpose-built facility within the new Clinical Services Building due for completion at the end of 2021. A pilot service will operate out of an existing building at Concord Hospital in the interim.
Ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force, regardless of their type of service, are eligible for referral to the Centre. The service is free of charge, in line with the Centre’s mission to ensure treatment is accessible for all veterans.