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

In this issue:

As Queensland Health starts to look forward, who is being left behind?


At the Queensland Clinical Senate meeting on Monday, clinicians and consumers from across the state examined the innovations and improved models of care which have come out of the response to COVID-19, and made recommendations about what should be kept and developed beyond this pandemic.

As the public health system starts to look forward, Health Consumers Queensland has also been continuing to talk with consumers this week about who is being left behind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities, inequities and discrimination in the healthcare system and our daily lives so we asked our COVID-19 Community of Interest Group, members of the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland and our own Consumer Advisory Group (CAG) as well as HHS CAG Leaders and Engagement Advisers:
  • Who is being left behind?  
  • Why are they being left behind?  
  • What can the system do and what can consumers do to address some of these issues?
Whilst many Queenslanders are now starting to enjoy life with some recent relaxations to restrictions, consumers and advisers identified over 25 groups of people whose health and/or social circumstances mean they are still unable to leave their homes or are particularly vulnerable to infection and the effects of prolonged isolation.

They include people with chronic health conditions or disabilities, people who are homeless, detained in corrective services or living in shared accommodation with shared amenities, and refugees, asylum seekers and new immigrants whose first language is not English and who lack established community networks and an understanding of the system.  As online forms of communication have become a vital lifeline, many people have also been caught on the other side of the digital divide without access to internet, smart phones or computers or the know-how to navigate them.

One of the main concerns is how to continue to stay as safe as possible when we are seeing fewer people regularly practising physical distancing in public spaces.

As a result, consumers with chronic health conditions or disabilities describe how they are now living in ‘a parallel world’ amidst a growing sense of ‘melancholy and frustration that my life will not be the same until a vaccine is found’. We also heard how people whose conditions mean they have chronic symptoms similar to COVID-19, are concerned about being discriminated against in public and refused entry or access to services.

Consumers also noted a range of other issues which are increasing the invisibility of those most at risk and deepening the current divide between ‘those who are well, healthy and feel confident’ and those who require the most support and care from the public  health care system and within their comunities.

The physical and mental health, social and economic impacts and risks are clearly severe and consumers made a number of recommendations to address some of these issues. In particular, consumers called for a state-wide or national awareness campaign to communicate the vulnerability and seriousness of the situation for people who cannot have restrictions lifted and remind people of the vital need to physically distance. By showing and telling the stories of ordinary at-risk Queenslanders, consumers hope that a  heightened public awareness  of what vulnerability looks like in all its forms will encourage a renewed sense of purpose to continue physical distancing behaviours in public.

A full summary of this week’s Consumer Conservations is currently being prepared and will be available on our website early next week.  It will also be shared with Queensland Health and all the Hospitals and Health Services. 
Latest news

Queensland Clinical Senate meeting focuses on innovation


The Queensland Clinical Senate represents and connects clinicians from across the health system and provides strategic advice and leadership on system-wide issues affecting the quality, affordability and efficient delivery of patient care within Queensland.

It values consumer collaboration and shares collective knowledge to consider strategic clinical issues and make recommendations to Queensland Health about how to deliver the best care to Queenslanders.

On Monday, 20 consumers met virtually with clinicians from across the state to share examples of innovations in response to the challenges of delivering health care during COVID-19. Examples included The Virtual Ward introduced by Metro North Hospital and Health Service and Cairns Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) Rapid Response Help Line.

Health Consumers Queensland's CEO, Melissa Fox, spoke briefly summarising the themes from the Consumer Conversations on the same topic. Melissa introduced a video giving a consumer perspective of innovative models of care filmed by Zehnab Vayani who is a consumer member of our state-wide network and also sits on the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland.  Melissa reflected on the variations in the way the system partners with consumers that still exist following her call to action to clinicians and Departmental staff early in March to remember to involve consumers at every level of the decision-making process.

She said, “Due to the swift nature of the response, a lot of engagement that has been happening has been at the review level.  Now that we have this opportunity to reflect and set our course on a path of reform, getting consumers engaged early remains vital, if you want to gain the maximum benefits of listening to consumers.

“Where it has been working, consumers say they’ve been really pleased to see Queensland Health making decisions quickly, transparently and collaboratively, and removing red tape and bureaucracy.  They want it to continue beyond COVID.”

The group went on to explore the lessons learned from the response and identified enablers and barriers to change and innovation. Integration, online communication and collaboration were the clear watchwords of this session as the group heard presentations on the Integrated Child Development Service, Telehealth during COVID-19 and primary care collaboration.

Finally, the group considered the priorities and recommendations which should inform decision-making for the ‘’new normal’’ of the health system. 

After the meeting, Joan Carlini, the consumer Chair of Gold Coast Health’s Consumer Advisory Group said/: “Today’s session has been so well facilitated. Every one having a voice with a person focus.” 

Queensland Clinical Senate will be publishing these recommendations on their website in the coming weeks and we will share them in a future  eAlert.

Read the full summary about innovations in health care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response from our Consumer Conversations which was tabled to the Queensland Clinical Senate.
 

QDN Consumer Conversation


Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) asked Melissa to present at their own COVID-19 Disability Advisory Committee conversation last week and listen to their members’ priorities and experiences at this time. They spoke about their many concerns which will be familiar to the consumer members of our own network.  We committed to sharing these with Queensland Health and amplifying all our voices.
  • Improved awareness from the general public about considering guide dogs and people with communication challenges.
  • People who have hearing loss or vision impairments or dual disabilities require more communication about changes in public spaces.
  • Guide dogs don’t recognize visual cues for social distancing, as they are taught to line up directly behind the person and this is causing issues.
  • Transient people or those experiencing homelessness are at increased risk from wounds & viruses.
  • PPE can’t be claimed on NDIS which means additional costs for people with disability
  • No additional income support (Disability Support Pension is higher than others, but people with a disability have additional costs such as PPE).
  • Systems need to get on top of ensuring information is accessible (graphics and easy-read) and in real-time, not developed later as an “add on”.
 

Supporting registered aged care facility engagement


After a COVID-19 positive test at an aged care home prompted an emergency response in Rockhampton, Queensland Health asked if COTA Queensland and  Health Consumers Queensland could develop an emergency communication and engagement checklist. It highlighted the importance of  transparent communication with residents, their families, staff and the community in Rockhampton as well as the wider aged care community and its stakeholders in Queensland. 

Developing bereavement guides for all consumers


Health Consumers Queensland has been running focus groups to inform the development of a series of bereavement guides to be published by Clinical Excellence Queensland (CEQ). We have supported CEQ staff with five focus groups with a diverse range of consumers. This includes specific focus groups with First Nations people as well as Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese speakers and translators,  to explore cultural responses to bereavement and ensure the planned guides meet their needs.

Emailed scripts now accepted


The Queensland Government has announced regulatory changes enabling pharmacists to accept scripts by email from prescribing doctors. The changes will allow digital images of prescriptions to be sent and dispensed for PBS or private prescriptions, and applies to prescriptions sent by all prescribers.

The initiative is temporary until 30 September.  After that time, the Commonwealth expects that electronic prescriptions (paperless) will replace the sending of a digital image (that involves making a paper prescription then taking an image to send).

This should be welcome news for consumers who have called for electronic prescriptions after experiencing difficulties obtaining medicines during this time if your pharmacy would not accept emailed scripts from a prescribing doctor.  We look forward to hearing about your experiences with this new initiative.
 
COVID-19 information and resources for consumers, carers and engagement staff 

COVIDSafe tracing app decision guide and FAQs


(UPDATED BY HEALTH CONSUMERS QUEENSLAND ON 21 MAY)

Is the COVIDSafe tracing app right for you and your family? 


If you're uncertain about downloading the new national COVIDSafe tracing app, open our regularly updated COVIDSafe tracing app decision guide and FAQS which sets out the benefits, risks and alternatives.

We are continually reviewing the information in the guide and FAQs and updating this each week. You can download the latest version from our website using the links below to help you decide the best course of action for you and your family. The latest update includes most recent download numbers and reporting on use by the State and Territory health authorities.
 
View COVIDSafe tracing app decision guide and FAQs

National community forum on the government's COVID-19 recovery strategy


Health Issues Centre, the health consumer state peak in Victoria is hosting a national community forum on  Tuesday 16 June 

Discuss with experts and everyday Australians the implications of the government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy - how should we balance the twin challenges of economic and COVID-19 infection recovery?
  • Can we kickstart the economy without increasing infection risk?
  • Will those at heightened risk need to double down on isolation?
  • Is it time to roll out personal protection equipment?

Find out more and register via the link below. 

HIC national community forum

Join our state-wide COVID-19 Community of Interest

It has never been more important to listen to the voices of carers and consumers. Find out more about our state-wide COVID-19 Community of Interest and take part in weekly video conversations to inform Queensland Health's pandemic response. 

Please register your details  via the link below. 

COVID-19 Community of Interest
Opportunities for consumers and carers

Help create a safer mental health system


The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch, Department of Health, would like to invite you to take part in the following consultations on creating a safer mental health system. 

The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan aims to improve the lives of people living with a mental illness and suicidality, their families, carers and communities.  This includes creating a safe and high-quality mental health care system that minimises and prevents harm wherever possible.

 To support this goal, Australian governments have agreed to work toward a new set of mental health safety priorities, to improve safety and reduce harms from mental health care, in all environments in which it is delivered.

This work is occurring with oversight from the national Safety and Quality Partnership Standing Committee.

 We want to hear from you

  • To help identify the new priorities, we want to know what you or your organisation think are the most pressing safety priorities in mental health, how we can best improve safety in these areas, and how we can monitor progress over time.
  • We want to hear from as many consumers, carers, care providers, clinicians, safety officers and service managers as possible. We also want to hear from mental health related services and stakeholders, including general practitioners, police, ambulance and emergency departments. 

Many ways to have your say

The Nous Group has been engaged to conduct a wide ranging consultation to help identify the new safety priorities. There are many ways for you to have your say on what the priorities should be. To get started, select an option that works best for you:
1. Take part in a short survey (survey open until 10 June)
2. Take part in an online discussion (nominate for one of the online discussions between 15-26 June)
3. Make a written submission (closing date 26 June)

For more information about these consultations you can contact MHAODB-OCP@health.qld.gov.au.

Share your views about nutrition in general practice

We invite you to participate in this research project, called Preferencesfor Receiving Nutrition Care in a Primary Care SettingGriffith University invites you to participate in this research project: Preferences for Receiving Nutrition Care in a Primary Care Setting

Nutrition care is defined as any practice conducted by a health care professional that aims to support patients to improve their diet quality. Nutrition care is important for the prevention and management of many health conditions, but particularly chronic diseases. Our research team recently conducted a study in a primary care setting where we reviewed the practices and views of general practitioners (GPs) and nurses around providing nutrition care to people at high risk of type 2 diabetes. We found that nutrition care was not often provided in usual practice for these patients even though they could benefit greatly from receiving diet support. We also discovered barriers for patients in accessing nutrition support outside of their GP visit. 

Our research team aims to understand the preferences of patients in accessing nutrition support in the primary care setting. This will help inform the design of a new model of care that ensures nutrition care is accessible by all patients, and especially those at high risk of chronic disease.

If you are:
1) over 18 years old
2) have visited general practice in the past year
you are eligible to participate! 

You will be asked questions over the phone about your health care experiences and preferences. This will take between 30-60 minutes. You will receive a $20 gift voucher for your time.

If you would like to participate, please read the participant information & consent form via the link below and email the researcher, Mari Somerville, at: mari.somerville@griffithuni.edu.au

Information and consent form
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