Fourteen percent of our patients are being admitted with bare feet; and main reason was that they didn’t actually own any shoes.
While this is a concern for patients, particularly in the middle of a cold Melbourne winter, it also means they are more prone to foot injuries. But there’s an additional concern once they become a hospital patient – we know that inside a hospital, a barefoot person is 10-13 times more likely to fall.
Our Podiatry staff approached the St Vincent’s Foundation, to see what could be done to provide shoes for these needy patients. The Foundation came up with the idea of setting up ‘Footwear Bank’ but needed financial help to establish the Bank and buy the shoes. In stepped the commercial law firm Allens and philanthropic trust The Joe White Bequest. These two organisations generously agreed to help support this worthy cause. The Footwear Bank has now been running for just over two years.
The Footwear Bank provides safe and suitable footwear for patients at risk of falling, who have no or limited family support, and can’t afford to buy shoes. All patients who receive Footwear Bank shoes get to keep them, which means they are less likely to suffer a foot related medical disorder in the future.
The support from Allens and the Joe White Bequest allowed the Podiatry Department to employ someone to set up and promote the Footwear Bank and purchase a range of shoes to cover the potential needs of recipients. Feedback from patients and staff has been overwhelmingly positive. One of our podiatrists tells the tale of a homeless patient in the Emergency Department who was overwhelmed to know that when he was due to be discharged, he would be leaving with a pair of new comfortable shoes.
An unexpected area of demand for the Footwear Bank has emerged at our residential sites, where it has been identified that a large number of falls were taking place. A Podiatrist now visits each site once a month to assess and issue footwear where appropriate.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to Allens and The Joe White Bequest for their support in making this service possible.