Nursing Review Issue 2 March-April 2022 - Page 5

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St Vincent ’ s CEO Anthony Schembri . Photo : NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

Out of place

Hospital CEO felt ‘ uncomfortable ’ as a gay patient

St Vincent ’ s Hospital chief executive Anthony Schembri has shared his eye-opening experience of feeling out of place in the healthcare system .

Earlier this year , Schembri was diagnosed with a “ rare and random life-changing illness ” and recently returned to work after spending time in hospital .
“ As a patient I was asked if my wife was coming to pick me up after a procedure or whether my partner – pronoun she or her – was joining the consultation ,” Schembri said .
“ There was an assumption that I was heterosexual in these healthcare settings – not always but enough to feel uncomfortable at times ,” he said .
Having worked in various facets of the NSW Health system for more than 25 years , Schembri said he was shocked to discover health staff still lacked the training to create an inclusive healthcare experience .
“ I considered whether I should ‘ out ’ myself , but I wondered , ‘ Will I be treated any differently ? Will it affect my care ?’” he said .
Schembri shared his story during the launch of the NSW LGBTQIA + Health Strategy 2022-2027 , which announced the opening of Australia ’ s first state-funded LGBTIQIA + healthcare centre .
While the location has yet to be confirmed , an additional $ 700,000 has been committed to develop the facility somewhere in Sydney .
Services ranging from expert sexual to mental health care will be offered at the centre , which will be run by the AIDS Council of Australia ( ACON ).
The ACON-run Sydney healthcare centre received a $ 3.5m investment as part of an election promise made in March 2019 .
The additional investment brings the centre ’ s funding to $ 4.2m , with the state government providing an additional $ 3.4m towards specialist trans and gender diverse support , $ 2.65m for education and training of health staff and $ 1.78m to mental health and suicide prevention .
Robyn Kennedy , a 78er and former board member of the Sydney Gay and Mardi Gras , spoke of the particular challenges experienced by ageing LGBTQIA + people .
She explained that the experience Schembri detailed was something dealt with daily in aged care facilities that she said were “ almost universally framed by heteronormative experiences .” ■

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