August 24 event

The widening disconnect between Covid policy and consumer experience was the hot topic at August’s Cuppa and Connect event.

The bumper group of 15 attendees was made up of primarily consumer representatives, a couple of HIC staff, including CEO Danny Vadasz, and one self-proclaimed “fox in the henhouse” representing a local health service and seeking feedback to improve consumer experience in her facilities.

Participants were quick to identify a range of issues with the way State and Federal Governments have handled the pandemic response, including:

  • Lance: There’s a bit of a disconnect (between policy and what’s happening on the ground).
  • Samantha: There’s a difference in communications. It shouldn’t matter where you live but it’s been very variable.
  • Natalie: There’s been a lot of confusion about visitation policy. There seems to be no consistency in how visiting hours are handled by staff as the health service itself seems confused and inconsistent in its approach to visiting hours.

Samantha agreed that even within the same facility, rules were being interpreted differently. She told of an incident in which a meeting had been held on an upper floor of a building and the numbers attending the event had been dictated by which door people attempted to enter through. Participants who entered through a door in one section of the building made it up while others who attempted to enter through a different part of the building were blocked from attending.

Judie, representing a Gippsland health service, agreed it could be confusing. She said in her health service, all staff had the same information and all doors had the same signage – however processes could vary for higher risk areas like maternity, oncology, palliative care and theatre, which could be confusing for members of the public.

Ian noted that different facilities were interpreting the rules differently. While his mother’s nursing home had locked down early, his friend’s mother’s home had not. That home had subsequently been handed over to the Commonwealth for management following an outbreak.

Flying by the seat of their pants

Natalie said all services appeared under-prepared and were flying by the seat of their pants.

Judie said now was the perfect time for consumers to provide input into how to manage this better in the future – before the system moved into the next phase of management and left the crisis phase behind.

Carlie advocated passionately on behalf of people with disabilities, saying the government had admitted they had been completely forgotten and left out of planning.  Information had also been slow or non-existent and the community had relied on materials produced by other organisations or gleaned from the internet to come up with their own Covid-safe plans.

She said this simply wasn’t good enough when you consider that people with disabilities were most likely to catch and die of Covid and were also most affected by the closure of services such as allied health and hydrotherapy – and yet no plan had been flagged to prioritise people with disabilities in the reopening of these services.

Unforeseen problems

Ian said the pandemic had caused problems that the system was simply not equipped to handle. He said he had a close family member in a mental health facility and had been unable to get information on her condition or treatment because he is not listed as her legal guardian.

“I still don’t know if she’s even dead yet”, he said.

Health Issues Centre CEO Danny Vadasz, said the organisation shared the group’s frustrations and planned a community forum to take feedback to the Government. The event was held at 11am on Thursday August 27, and several members of the Cuppa group were active participants.

Danny also called for expressions of interest to set up working groups to develop best-practice approaches on key issues and proactively lead with foresight rather than hindsight.

The group agreed many of the current approaches were not working in the pandemic environment and a new approach was needed.

Further details about opportunities to engage will be posted in the Consumers Connect Facebook Group, the Consumers Connect Newsletter and discussed at future Cuppa and Connect events.