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eAlert: Enabling vital partnerships to ensure the COVID-19 health response meets the needs of all Queenslanders

In this issue:

Congratulations and welcome


We have returned to our home offices, spare bedrooms and dining tables with renewed energy and focus after the Easter break and we hope you too were able to take some time out and relax.

We'd like to extend a warm welcome to the new members of the network who have joined during the past month. Please join the current conversation by registering to be part of the COVID-19 Community of Interest.

Some more good news on our return... the Board of Health and Wellbeing Queensland has recently been appointed. Eight Board members have been selected to serve, one of whom is Anna Voloschenko who has been an active consumer member of Health Consumers Queensland since its inception. Anna is a Health Professional with over 30 years’ experience encompassing public health, health promotion, health protection and population health. Presently she is an independent Consumer Advisor and strategic planner on matters related to the health of populations and communities who live in Queensland.

When we asked Anna what this new role means to her, she said, "My involvement in Public Health and Heath Promotion goes back many years. I am looking forward to being a part of the Board of Health and Wellbeing Queensland where I hope to contribute my knowledge and skills towards reducing the burden of chronic disease which will lead to improvement of overall health and quality of life of Queenslanders."  

Congratulations Anna!

Are you delaying healthcare due to COVID-19?


The news that we have flattened the curve in Queensland and are not experiencing the anticipated spike in infections and rise in hospital and ICU admissions, is welcome indeed. However, consumers and carers are now facing a further healthcare challenge: grappling with the impact of the lockdown on their ongoing healthcare needs. 

Queensland Health is reminding people that hospitals and services are still 'open' and regular appointments can be kept. Yet we have heard some people are putting off their routine health care.  


This week we asked members of our Consumer Advisory Group, consumer members of the Health Consumer Collaborative of Queensland, the COVID-19 Community of Interest and our followers on Facebook whether they had delayed any of their regular healthcare, if it was clear to them what care is continuing and what is being postponed, and how has this been communicated?

The key issues and concerns which emerged during the conversations included:

  • Difficulty in accessing care when in self-isolation.
  • Risk of inadvertently causing infection.
  • What is open and what is not.
  • Too much of a risk to go for routine tests including blood tests or keep appointments with specialists.
  • Vulnerable people have been advised to expect to remain in isolation until next year and planned surgeries have been postponed but what about waiting lists after this time.
  • The health consequences of waiting and postponing.
  • Deciding to put off new knees and hips and get by on steroid injections for the next 12 months.
  • Confusion and concern around cancellation of ante-natal classes for new parents-to-be.
  • Lack of communication around closure of transplant centres and the impact of this decision on people’s health and these precious resources.
  • How do we monitor symptoms and know when to go to hospital.
  • There have been no letters or phonecalls despite surgery needing to be done within three months
  • The sense of being just left hanging.
  • Inconsistencies in information are causing fear and particularly those of mature ages and with co-morbidities.
  • Communication methods need to address all levels of health literacy.
  • The system is not designed for particular groups or particular conditions. It is not reaching us at a place-based level.
     

So just how can Queensland Health keep infection rates down whilst ensuring everyone receives the care they need?

Based on this consumer feedback, Health Consumers Queensland has advised the Department that there is a demonstrable need for clearer communication and proactive forward planning around health care and timeframes during this period. Some people are choosing to decline or postpone care and the system needs to understand why and how you are making those decisions. For others there is confusion around what is allowed in terms of accessing services or being uninformed about why services or surgery are on hold. Queensland Health also needs to be considering those who are not informed and have low health literacy. 
 

Escalating consumer concerns about PPE in community and home settings

We are currently awaiting a response to a joint letter from Health Consumers Queensland, COTA Queensland and the Queenslanders with Disability Network to the Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeanette Young.

The letter highlighted the growing concerns of consumers and carers about the cancellation of health and community services because of the lack of PPE for disability and aged care workers providing care in community and home settings, and asked for clarity about availability and access for these workers.

 

New date for conversation with First Nations people and people living in rural and remote communities - register your interest


The Chief Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Officer and Deputy Director-General of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health together with the Chief Executive of the Establishment of the Rural and Remote Health Office, are holding a conversation next week with First Nations people and people living in rural and remote communities to share the COVID-19 plans which have been made for your communities and listen to your feedback and concerns.

It will be held on Friday, 24 April. Invites will be sent to First Nations health consumers by the end of this week. If you are interested and don’t receive the invite, please send an email to consumer@hcq.org.au


Representing health consumers and carers at all levels


Health Consumers Queensland staff are continuing to meet daily with Queensland Health staff on the following:
  • Strategic Communications
  • Clinical matters
  • Mental health
  • Disability health
  • Community health
  • Stakeholder networks
  • Maternity
  • and with other NGOs.
We also connected with health consumer organisations across the country to share strategies and resources.
 
Closing the feedback loop


New COVID-19 health and wellbeing platform
 

Health and Wellbeing Queensland welcomed the feedback from consumers last week to enable them to make the platform accessible and relevant for all Queenslanders. In particular, they've tailored the content to the current COVID-19 situation, included mental wellbeing as a separate pillar and separated worker wellbeing into front line, at home and out of work. They are working to ensure the site is inclusive with plain language, relevant and realistic images, and accessible content in a variety of modes. Finally, they would like to explore options for one or two consumers to be involved in further testing and provide advice as critical friends. 

 

Self-isolation factsheets transformed

After the Community of Interest reviewed public self-isolation factsheets for the Department two weeks ago, the Strategic Communications Branch let us know that the fact sheet went through a few changes and was added to the clinicians page for GPs and other doctors to use. For the public facing content, they stripped the fact sheet back and will be turning it into more of an informative graphic with some simple English tips on how to assist with isolation.

Health Consumers Queensland will send out the public facing factsheet when it is released.

COVID-19 information and resources for consumers, carers and engagement staff 

Non-COVID patients also need care


MEDIA RELEASE THURSDAY 16 APRIL 2020
 

Patients in need of routine care for chronic and other conditions should feel they can see the doctor and not be dissuaded by fear of COVID-19, the Consumers Health Forum said today.


“We are concerned at reports by professional bodies and health services that patients are putting off seeing the doctor or going to hospitals because of worries about catching COVID-19,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“We hear that attendances at many GP clinics, pathology centres, hospital emergency departments and other health services are down significantly.  That should be a concern for all Australians.  People should not delay having necessary checks and treatment which may be vital in preventing serious illness.

“Feedback and surveys from some CHF members tell us some patients and carers are not accessing GPs services and medications for general health issues due to worries about COVID-19.

 “We expect that the introduction of telehealth services will reduce the need for many patients to see the doctor or allied health professionals face-to-face but there is more work to be done to make patients aware of the new and innovative steps GPs and pharmacies are taking to care for their patients.  However there remain many instances where patients need the doctor to undertake physical tests or order diagnostic tests like pathology or x-rays.

“The result of foregone treatments can be avoidable disease and disability which could leave Australia with sicker patients whose needs put further strain on health resources required to counter COVID.

“It is right and understandable that the community takes every care to avoid COVID risks and we hail the courage and skill doctors and nurses have displayed in both treating COVID patients and preventing spread of the virus.

“However public anxiety particularly when it discourages people from getting the care they need underlines the importance of clear and rigorous safety measures at health centres.

“Governments must ensure that public warnings about COVID do not scare people away from the treatment they need for other conditions such as chronic disease where ongoing continuous care is so vital,” Ms Wells said.

Mental health and wellbeing resources for adults, young people and children

 
Leonie Sanderson, Health Consumers Queensland Engagement advisor and consumer engagement lead on Brisbane's new extended adolescent mental health treatment centre, Jacaranda Place, has pulled together these recommended resources from the Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch. They are  for anyone experiencing anxiety and increased threat about social order and disruption to normal way of life including low level distress, coping with challenges, ability to self-manage, access to social supports (family and friends) and supports targeting situational stressors e.g. financial issues. 
 
The Department of Communities (COVID-19) community recovery hotline number is 1800 173 349 or visit https://www.qld.gov.au/health/mental-health for a stepped care mental health support response for anyone. This will take you to:
  • Head to Health
  • MindSpot
  • National Mental Health Commission developed #InThisTogether website (practical tips online to support mental health and wellbeing)
  • Queensland Mental Health Commission website

For young people and families:

 

It is also worth keeping an eye on the new funding announcement for mental health services.

Join our state-wide network of consumers and carers who can be involved in rapid COVID-19 responses 

We need a community of interested consumers/carers who are able to be on stand-by for COVID-19 response opportunities at short notice including joining a weekly COVID-19 ''Consumer Conversations'' Zoom with the Department of Health to help them keep consumers at the centre of their COVID-19 response.

Please register your details via the link below. 

COVID-19 Community of Interest
Other opportunities for consumers and carers

Queensland Health Website Transformation Project

 

Thank you to everyone who has found some time during your busy schedules to fill out our Website Transformation survey and help us with this important project.

 

If you’ve not yet had the chance to fill in the survey, you can still participate here: https://QH-online.optimalworkshop.com/questions/ngo

The survey will be open until COB next Wednesday, 22 April.
 

What is the survey about

The Website Transformation Project is dedicated to simplifying how users search, engage and consume content across all public-facing Queensland Health websites. Being external to Queensland Health, you'll have a unique perspective about the current state of our websites.

Can you give 10 minutes of your time to complete the survey? You'll be helping us design a more cohesive, coordinated, web presence that will enable us to respond to our ever-changing environment with more agility in the future.

Thanks for your participation!

Learn more about the Website Transformation Project at www.health.qld.gov.au/website-transformation

 

 

 

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