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Human trafficking: what can healthcare organisations do?

A health and aged care provider is tackling Australia’s role in human trafficking head on.

St Vincent’s Health Australia has joined forces with anti-human trafficking group Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) to change the way hospitals treat trafficked people.

The Human Trafficking Project will look at how trafficked people can be identified and how to ensure they receive necessary treatment, support, referrals and access to services.

St Vincent's will also work to ensure the goods and services it procures are slavery-free.

A recent report by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and The Australia Institute stated there are high-levels of exploitation and human rights abuses among low-wage workers involved in the overseas production of everyday medical goods used by Australians.

The report said mounting evidence shows that the production of goods in Australian healthcare settings is tainted by hazardous working conditions, labour exploitation, child labour and other abuses.

ACRATH’s executive officer Christine Carolan said work to address this issue has begun through the development of new supply chain policies for SVHA’s procurement department.

“Slavery-proofing supply chains also extends to the employment of people providing services,” Carolan said. “One example would be ensuring all staff working for third party cleaning contractors engaged by St Vincent’s are employed under Australian labour regulations.”

SVHA group mission leader Lisa McDonald said most people who find themselves trapped in modern day slavery attend a hospital at some point. “In healthcare we have a unique window of opportunity to not only address their healthcare needs, but to invite an organisational response in a way that might bring wider hope and transformation.

“This sort of change will take time, but within a year we hope to have taken some bold steps to address human trafficking that will provide a blueprint for the entire health system.”

Nursing Review sat down with McDonald to find out more about the ways in which the provider is confronting the issue of human trafficking.

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