The Way Forward
Dr Joseph Hassan recalls that when he began practising as a GP in the town of Nelson, New Zealand, he was confronted by the insufficient standard of care available for pregnant women in crisis.
At the time, Joseph noticed that women who were coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy did not receive meaningful support. In Joseph’s experience as a practitioner, many women who requested abortion felt under pressure as a result of threatened relationships, lack of alternatives and fear for their future. In some cases, women were experiencing unaddressed grief and trauma as a result of previous abortions.
Although Joseph referred women in crisis to government-funded counselling services, there was not enough counselling available to address the complex needs these women were facing. In addition, the standard GP consultation was capped at a meagre fifteen minutes which left little opportunity to alleviate the fears and lack of support that women were experiencing. Consequently, women were often left feeling they had no other choice but to terminate their pregnancy.
Convinced that the health system was not offering adequate support, Joseph and his wife Cushla, who was trained as a nurse, set up a new medical practice in Nelson, called St. Luke’s Health Centre. This medical centre integrates a pregnancy support service within the General Practice, allowing the Hassans to provide holistic care to all of the women who enter their service.
Joseph and Cushla’s Health Centre was established in 2001 and now helps 60 to 70 women a year as well their babies and sometimes their partners too. Services include counselling as well as securing stable accommodation and basic necessities. The clinic also provides post abortion counselling for women struggling with the aftermath of a termination.
For Joseph and Cushla, what is most important is helping vulnerable women find hope in their immediate situations and providing the support that these women need to do so.
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