New Gender Clinic to open at Healthy Communities
A new, weekly Gender Clinic based at Healthy Communities (HC) in Teneriffe is now taking appointments for trans people who were left out in the cold after the closure of services at Biala's Roma Street clinic earlier this year.
The new clinic, whose services will be bulk-billed, is a joint venture between HC, the Australian Transgender Support Association Queensland (ATSAQ) and Dr Gale Bearman and has been made possible by the donation of start-up funds from The Shelley Foundation, established by PFLAG’s national spokesperson Shelley Argent.
Argent became concerned when she heard that gender clients were no longer being accepted at Biala due to government cutbacks.
“These specialist health services are vital to the LGBT community, particularly trans people, and I am so pleased that the community has stepped up to the plate to ensure they continue,” Argent said.
Dr Gale Bearman was told by Queensland Health in January she could not see gender clients at Biala any more because they were no longer “core business”.
She told Queensland Pride a Gender Clinic in one form or another had been in existence since 1995 and the move to HC was a re-establishment of that service.
A gender specialist with 20 years’ experience, Bearman said the new clinic would also look for funding for a social worker or psychologist.
“We had a very generous donation from Shelley Argent, which is almost all spent,” Bearman said, adding that not having to pay rent at HC’s community-owned premises enabled her to bulk-bill clients.
“The sticking point was always the waiting list,” Bearman said. “We have no waiting list now because it’s a new clinic, but at Roma Street we had a three or four month waiting list. I know that I will only be able to see about 25 per cent of the people who would present in a single year wanting gender services.
“Now that I’m not employed by Queensland Health I’m quite open about saying it’s dreadful. It’s unfair that there’s no public health support for this vulnerable population with a high rate of suicidality and unemployment and family breakdown, loss and difficulty. It’s just a disgrace.”
Shelley Argent’s donation allowed the purchase of a specialist gynaecological couch, medical practice software, and the purchase of essential clinical equipment such as a diagnostic set, blood pressure machine and loupes.
“It’s similar to a general practice environment except there is no autoclave so that means we can’t do the more complicated procedures that require sterilisation. But I can certainly do things like paps for trans men, because a lot of trans men still have cervixes and that’s a difficult thing for them to access in general practice.
“The model of the Gender Clinic is that I’ve always had trans volunteers at the front desk. That’s an essential part of the model and means I can’t just do this anywhere.
"The person who answers the phone is a trans person and that’s very good for people who are starting out, just exploring. I can’t have a trans person in general practice, the reception desk is frantic and you couldn’t put a volunteer into it. Within this space, you can.”
Bearman said the only other clinic now offering free services for gender clients is Dr Darren Russell’s in Cairns and she sees herself and the clinic as a resource for GPs who might not be aware of how to treat gender clients.
The Gender Clinic will be taking appointments and queries on Wednesdays only at this stage. Call (07) 3017 1777.