Earlier this month we were alarmed to hear reports from our HIV positive community that a vital Adelaide CBD HIV service, O’Brien Street General Practice, is being forced to relocate or close within the next 3 months when the lease for its premises expires.
O’Brien Street General Practice provides essential prevention and management treatments for around 250 South Australians living with HIV. Established in 1991 as a joint partnership with SA Health, the service has been crucial for many LGBTIQA+ South Australians over the last 30 years. Governance of the service is currently managed by SA Health’s Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN).
Last fortnight SARAA met with incoming Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton about a range of issues related to LGBTIQA+ healthcare. Minister Picton informed us that a recent decision had been made not to close the service currently offered at O’Brien Street; but to relocate it. As far as we’re aware, this decision is yet to be communicated to the public by CALHN.
We also understand that in the lead up to the expiry of the O’Brien Street lease, CALHN conducted a “review” of the service. This review appears to have occurred in isolation of any meaningful consultation with any patients who use the service, staff, medical practitioners, or the broader LGBTIQA+ community.
These events have understandably caused significant fear and distress amongst an already vulnerable cohort. Our communities have been once again left in the dark with no communication and no say in decisions central to their health. Indeed, a lack of transparency by our public health services has created an environment for confusion and rumour to thrive, putting unnecessary and avoidable stress and anxiety upon people living with HIV. As one community member told us:
I’m devastated that this will potentially be another HIV service that will bite the dust with bureaucracy standing by doing nothing. Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) have known the lease won’t be renewed since last year but NOTHING has been done to facilitate a smooth transition.
As HIV positive South Australians and the sexual health services who support them currently battle with the impact of the monkeypox virus (MPXV) and commence the rollout of the relevant vaccine this month, the timing of these changes could not be worse. Given people living with HIV are currently living with a chronic health condition in the midst of not one but two global public health emergencies, the mere thought of relocating a major HIV service in the next 3-4 months is completely irresponsible and yet another blow to an already vulnerable community.
We call on SA Health’s Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) and the responsible Minister Picton to take the following actions as a matter of urgency:
1. Prioritise continuity of care for O’Brien Street patients by ensuring services of equal quality and accessibility continue in a CBD location, especially in the context of the current monkeypox outbreak.
2. Communicate the transition plan to provide services to O’Brien Street General Practice patients to patients, health practitioners and the broader community.
3. Hold a public meeting to confirm the immediate plan to provide services to O’Brien Street patients, and consult on the long-term plans for providing best practice patient-centred care.