“First Peoples with disability, who are already experiencing higher levels of disadvantage and are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, are at risk of being triaged out of the health system or being provided with inadequate support.
A lot of Indigenous people with disabilities face race discrimination, disability discrimination or an intersection of both.
And unfortunately we have a situation where people are very reluctant to engage in the health system because they might have well-founded fears around how they might be treated “
With reports from countries such as America finding that marginalised people are missing out on emergency health care, Damian Griffis, CEO of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN), told Pro Bono News he feared the same would happen to Aboriginal people
As talks of easing lockdown restrictions begin, experts fear Aboriginal Australians with disability will be overlooked and “triaged out of the health system”.
It has prompted FPDN , in partnership with Sydney Health Law and the Disability Innovation Institute UNSW, to release guidelines on providing ethical health care for Indigenous people with disability.
The points of action put First Peoples with a disability in a position where they can speak to decision-makers and help them provide appropriate responses to the pandemic.
The recommendations include recognising that disability care is a critical health service for Indigenous people and should be funded as such, including Indigenous people in decision-making processes regarding healthcare during the pandemic, helping restore trust in healthcare systems, and providing culturally appropriate services.
Griffis said that while Australian health services were dealing with the pandemic in a fair way, putting into place the recommendations would make sure it stayed that way.
“It looks as though we are on the right track, but nonetheless these principles should inform access to intensive care,” he said.
He also said that with such a big focus on healthcare at the moment, it was a good opportunity to review the entire healthcare experience for Indigenous people with disability, beyond the pandemic.
Find a full list of the recommendations here.
Discussions of easing restrictions, nation-wide, potentially present a higher risk of increasing numbers of outbreaks across the country.
These ethical considerations must be adapted and implemented.
1.All Federal, State and Territory government agencies must remove disability from consideration of resource allocation when it is used as a broad criterion for exclusion from critical care.
2.State and Federal health authorities must commit to including First Peoples with a disability in planning for decision-making regarding healthcare during the pandemic.
3.State and Federal health authorities must commit to identifying areas of strain and work to re-establish strong relationships of trust and confidence with the First Peoples affected. In cases where that cannot be implemented, arrangements should be made to give access to alternative healthcare resources.
4.State and Territory policies on pandemic healthcare must expressly refer to the need to be culturally competent when providing services to First Peoples with a disability.
5.The State and Territory governments must look at how more students can be transitioned into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healthcare workforce.
6.State and Territory governments must understand this existential threat and take whatever action is necessary to protect Elders as the guardians of First Peoples’ cultures.