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

In this issue:

Update on health consumer, staff and Health Consumers Queensland engagement this week

  

Planning and decision-making around the public health system response to COVID-19 is urgent and must factor in an ever-changing landscape. Quality consultation with consumers is in high demand and often takes place with less than 24 hours turn-around.  These challenges for Health Consumers Queensland and Queensland Health mean we need to work closely together to ensure consumers are brought in at the right time to influence plans, and public-facing communications and directives.
 

In this week's eAlert we bring you an update on the latest work with consumers and staff and share how your input is impacting how Queensland Health is supporting and informing Queenslanders around COVID-19.

The importance of the consumer-staff partnership at this time has also been highlighted by John Wakefield, the Director General of Queensland Health. Every week he sends a message to all staff members at Queensland Health and we are grateful to him for allowing us to share an excerpt from his latest message, "Lifting the line", with our network.

'Lifting the line'


In his message to staff last Friday, John Wakefield discusses how early and aggressive public health actions to manage the spread of COVID-19 are paying off in terms of flattening the curve and enabling our hospitals to be prepared for a swift and coordinated response.

He writes that Queensland’s Chief Health Officer’s swift early action, and steely resolve has meant that we are not suffering the loss of control that we have seen in Europe and the USA.

“The public health response; that is Find Test Isolate, and the aggressive social distancing policies, especially swift action on the borders, has meant that Australia, but especially Queensland, has been able to prevent uncontrolled spread. Flattening the curve as it is known, is the result - rather than eliminating the virus, through these measures we manage to control the spread so that our health system can cope - this means thousands of lives can be saved, and critically, that our healthcare workers can avoid the chaos and distress of being overwhelmed.

For those of you with a mathematical brain, even with tens of thousands of returning travellers, we have managed to limit and control spread such that the doubling time (number of days for total case numbers to double) for Queensland has gone from a low of 3 to almost 20 days. Our collective actions are really flattening the curve. This is great news for Queenslanders, our vulnerable, and for you - those who will care for the sick.

Despite this great news, we must not drop our guard. Every Queenslander needs to play their part in ensuring they comply with the public health directions, and role model the behaviours to our colleagues, friends and family. We all must play our part in making sure that we stop this virus from reaching the most vulnerable in our society.

Even with this flattened curve, the numbers of COVID-19 positive patients will grow in home isolation (80 per cent), in hospital wards (15 per cent) and in intensive care (5 per cent). Enormous work has been done, and is continuing to prepare our hospitals, primary care and aged care for a swift and coordinated response. We refer to this expansion of our hospital capacity as ‘lifting the line’.

With the cessation of many non-urgent services, there is some residual capacity in many of our hospitals right now.... almost the calm before the storm. Let us use this time to train and onboard our workforce expansion; to fully test and simulate our planned responses; to reach out and make sure our response plans integrate primary care, private hospitals and residential aged care.

Fully involve the whole team in the response training; nurses and doctors, allied health and diagnostics, cleaners and orderlies, food services, administration staff, logistics and maintenance and more. Involving consumers can really help you plan the patient journey for a COVID-19 patient."

What we heard from you this week


Reviewing factsheets

Consumer members of the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland and some HHS Engagement Advisers performed a fast turnaround yesterday reviewing fact sheets for the State Health Emergency Centre. The factsheets included information about new rules for visiting patients in hospital.
 

Ryan's Rule

Queensland Health is considering how Ryan’s Rule could be implemented during COVID-19. Ryan's Rule is a three-step process to support patients of any age, their families and carers, to raise concerns if a patient’s health condition is getting worse or not improving as well as expected. A number of consumers and Health Consumers Queensland have been involved in early discussions with Queensland Health staff on this.
 

Mental health and wellbeing, access to continued care and the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in community settings are key issues for our COVID-19 Community of Interest group


In this week's conversation, consumers shared their concerns about the need for clear messaging and information on the following issues:
  • Plans for people in rural and remote communities and RFDS medi-vac services.
  • Mental health and wellbeing support
  • The importance of social connectedness at this time of physical distancing
  • Masks – confusion around availability for front line workers, whether consumers should be wearing them in community settings, and if carers and support workers should be wearing them for home visits.  Consumers reported a disconnect between policy and their concerns/what is happening on the ground.
  • Specialist teams need to be communicating more directly with their patients who have chronic conditions or are vulnerable and use services frequently. Many of these consumers are concerned about being able to access care.
  • Reduced access to surgery for women with breast cancer requiring double mastectomies
  • What Hospital in the Home is really going to look like. What does it mean if you are receiving care from Hospital in the Home?
  • The availability and roll out of flu vaccinations.
  • Staying home during the Easter break.
  • Linking up social support groups and initiatives.
Every week we hear of many issues from health consumers. We may not be able to address all of these due the number and the time constraints. However, all these issues have been shared with Queensland Health and we will report on any actions in forthcoming eAlerts.
 

Consumer raises concerns with Health Minister and Chief Health Officer in Townsville


James Wong, Townsville Hospital and Health Service's Chair of its Consumer Advisory Council,  met face-to-face with the Health Minister, Hon. Steven Miles MP and Chief Health Officer, Jeanette Young, in Townsville last week. James raised the following key issues with them on behalf of groups and task forces representing vulnerable people in the region:
 
  • High risk or vulnerable patients who contract COVID-19 are concerned that they will be turned away from hospitals, there will be minimal intervention or not even treated. They want better communication and more reassurance that they will receive appropriate care if they need it.
  • People who are vulnerable or who have disabilities are concerned that their home support services will be pulled out if they are suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms even if they are not tested, partly due to the current testing criteria.
  • What is the strategy around rough sleepers and homeless people?
  • Will there be additional funding for mental health issues? Based on the experience of Townsville's flood recovery, extra funding will be needed now and years into the future.
  • An expansion of the current co-responder initiative has been called for, where a mental health practitioner partners up and goes out with emergency services.
  • There have been calls for a National Vulnerable People's Register that would be managed by each Local Government Area.
  • The Care Army was announced that morning. Immediate questions were on insurance and liability issues for volunteer organisations, and the current turnaround time for receiving a Blue Card being approximately four weeks.
     
The Health Minister and Chief Executive Officer of Townsville HHS responded that these were key issues that were currently being addressed by various Government departments, agencies and the local HHS.

Health Consumers Queensland is heartened to hear that consumer leaders are being invited by the HHS to opportunities to meet with the Health Minister. The following day the Health Minister met with another consumer leader in Cairns.

This demonstrates the value of hearing directly from the people most affected, especially when the consumer leader has asked for concerns from a number of key consumer and community groups in order to be prepared for the meeting.  It also demonstrates the maturity of consumer engagement across the State where consumer leaders are seen as valued members of the health team and we’re seeing more of this during the health system’s response to COVID-19.
 

New 'keeping well and healthy’ platform could better reflect lives of all Queenslanders
 

A group of consumers met last Saturday to review concepts for a new internet platform from Health and Wellbeing Queensland (H&WQ) aimed at providing information for Queenslanders during COVID-19 on staying well and healthy. The platform included information on local community resources, eating well, staying active and looking after your mental wellbeing.

Consumers suggested H&WQ needed to represent and provide information that was relevant for all Queenslanders, specifically what keeping well and healthy means for people with disabilities and chronic illness, First Nations people, people in rural and remote communities or those on low incomes so  that the site can reflect the lives of all Queenslanders.
 

Consumer conversations taking place over the next week

  • People from 13 nationalities whose first language is not English are meeting with the Strategic Communications Branch online today to give their feedback and suggestions on key messages, images and poster concepts.
 
  • eHealth Queensland is demonstrating a contact tracing app today for people who test positive for COVID-19 and is seeking advice and information about how the consent process should work for this app and roll-out of this new resource.
 
  • 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 Thursday, 16 April. Invites will be sent to First Nations health consumers and to consumers who live in rural and remote areas by the end of today. 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.

HHS engagement staff 

We are meeting weekly with engagement staff from all 16 HHSs in Queensland. As well as an opportunity to exchange vital information, these catchups are a chance to work together on solutions to the most pressing issues facing consumers of HHS services.

Thank you

Once again, thank you to the wonderful consumers who continue, even in the most challenging circumstances, to contribute and make yourselves available to review, provide impactful feedback and share your perspectives with staff from the Department and your local HHSs.

We hope some of you will be able to enjoy this four day break with your loved ones and have a chance to look after yourselves. And if you're pitching a tent in the backyard this weekend - we hope the sun shines for you!  

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

New SBS online portal provides news and information on COVID-19 in 63 languages


SBS has launched a multilingual online portal to provide information on the COVID-19 outbreak for Australia's diverse communities.


The portal will provide the latest news on the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia, as well as features explaining government policy and health advice in 63 languages. Enter the portal below.
Enter SBS multilingual portal

Join a 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. 

 

Join COVID-19 Community of Interest
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