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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Representing health consumers and carers at all levels
Health Consumers Queensland staff are continuing to meet daily with Queensland Health staff on the following:
We also connected with health consumer organisations across the country to share strategies and resources.
- Strategic Communications
- Clinical matters
- Mental health
- Disability health
- Community health
- Stakeholder networks
- and with other NGOs.