18 March 2020

Urgent Action Required

Guidestar joins with leading health and disability researchers in calling for urgent action from State and Federal governments to develop a targeted response to COVID-19 for people with disability, their families and the disability service sector.

At the moment, the Government has a targeted response for the aged care sector, but not for the disability sector. Both sectors have many similarities including congregated care settings, a precariously employed and inadequately trained care workforce, and families and carers who may face significant challenges meeting the care needs of people with disability.

Australians with disability are a vulnerable population in the COVID-19 pandemic because they are at elevated risk of morbidity and death due to underlying health conditions. This is frightening because:

  • The health sector is under-prepared to meet the urgent health care needs of people with disability.
  • The disability service sector will not be able to meet the care needs of people with disability.
  • Information on what to do is not easily accessible. For example, some people may not understand why there is disruption to their usual daily care routines[1].

[1] Centre of Research Excellence in Disability & Health, www.credh.org.au

Guidestar Visits to Residential Facilities and Homes

Guidestar clinicians have a role in supporting vulnerable clients with complex needs in their home and community environments. We are aware that disability providers are activating their Emergency Response Procedures and Guidestar clinicians will comply with all requirements.

Unless there is an urgent need, Guidestar will not visit people in their homes and residential facilities as many interactions can be achieved through videoconferencing and/or teleconferencing.

Where there is an urgent need for observations, or an initial face-to-face meeting, Guidestar will determine attendance on a case by case basis. A decision will be made regarding risk and whether significant harm could result from Guidestar not attending.

In the event that Guidestar decides that attendance is required, we will follow the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee guidelines and limits regarding visits to vulnerable groups. These include:

  • Guidestar will only attend if our clinician is feeling well
  • Checking that the client is feeling well
  • Signing in upon arrival
  • Following any infection control protocols and advice provided
  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Planning for a very brief visit
  • Conducting observations or meeting in an outdoor setting, weather permitting
  • Maintaining 1.5m social distancing
  • Avoiding spending time in communal areas of the facility if possible to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

 

Guidestar understands that from 1 May, people visiting an aged care facility must have had their influenza vaccination. Presumably this will also apply to Disability Residential Facilities, therefore, Guidestar will ensure that clinicians attending any disability residential or program setting are vaccinated before 1 May.

Resources

The Department of Health has a number of resources and videos aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. www.health.gov.au

The Department of Health and Human Services has established a hotline where any member of the public can call to seek information on COVID-19 on 1800 675 398.

The DHHS website is: www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

For further health information the number for Victoria’s ‘Nurse on Call’ is 1300 60 60 24

The Australian Government has enacted the Coronavirus Emergency Response Plan and the NDIA is taking necessary steps to prepare and support participants and providers see: www.ndis.gov.au

Information about COVID-19 in languages of Chinese, Farsi, Korean and Italian is available at: www.health.gov.au

The Growing Space has also published a 4 page easy English Guide that clearly explains:

  • COVID-19 symptoms
  • Preparation advice for people with disability
  • Safety precautions
  • What to do if you’re unwell

 

See: www.thegrowingspace.com.au

For anyone experiencing anxiety, distress or concern, Beyond Blue has released a resource about looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak: www.beyondblue.org.au

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