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Caring for those on the fringe

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A Turkish-born GP who has broken down barriers to the treatment of socially isolated and marginalised communities in rural Victoria has won the AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award for 2014.

Dr Mehdi Sanati Pour, who works as a GP in Mildura, has been recognised for his extraordinary work in overcoming cultural, social and linguistic barriers to provide specialist care, especially mental health services, for many unwilling or unable to access mainstream health services in the Sunraysia region.

Presenting the Award at the AMA National Conference, outgoing AMA President Dr Hambleton said Dr Sanati Pour had, in the best traditions of the medical profession, strived to ensure quality health care was provided for all in his community, including many groups that often fall through the cracks of the health system.

Dr Sanati Pour, who trained in and practised medicine in Turkey before migrating to Australia, began working in the Victorian public hospital system in 2005. In 2008, he moved to Mildura where he undertook GP training and joined a busy local practice.

Dr Hambleton said that during his training in Mildura, Dr Sanati Pour realised there was a shortage of specialised services in rural and regional areas, particularly for culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

“Dr Sanati Pour saw how differences in language and culture can throw up big barriers that hamper access to medical services, and he has taken it upon himself to try and bridge these gaps in health care.”

Among his initiatives, Dr Sanati Pour has organised health workshops and assessments for the local Turkish community; after-hours Pap screen sessions, run by a female Pap smear nurse, to provide screening and health information for women in full-time work and those for whom cultural and religious issues preclude regular health checks by male GPs; as well as a weekly refugee health clinics where recent arrivals are given comprehensive health assessments, including of their mental health.

“This award recognises and acknowledges Dr Sanati Pour’s tireless efforts to achieve the best possible health outcomes for the Sunraysia community, particularly for those who – for reasons of culture, language and social isolation – might otherwise not get the care they need,” Dr Hambleton said.

“He is truly a worthy winner of the AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award.”

Adrian Rollins