NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Communities #CoronaVirus News Alert No 11 of 11 March 18 : Contributions @AMAPresident Communique @AMSANTaus Community resources @normanswan Todays Update Plus #MentalHealth care for Health Care Workers

In this special Corona Virus edition 11

1.AMA Communique

1.1 Communication:

1.2 Prevention of spread:

1.3 Vulnerable Communities

1.4 Medical Workforce maintenance and support:

1.5 Protection of access to health care:

2. AMSANT Resources

2.1 INFORMATION FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS

2.2 INFORMATION FOR COMMUNITY MEMBERS

2.3 HEALTH PROMOTION INCLUDING HYGIENE RESOURCES

2.4 PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)

2.4 ACCESS TO ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES

2.6 MEDICARE MBS BILLING INFORMATION

2.7 LINKS TO EXTERNAL SITES

3.Dr Norman Swan Update March 18

4.Mental Health care for Health Care Workers

See NACCHO Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 11 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

1.AMA Communique 

Recognising that Australian Governments, advised by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), have been working to respond to the escalation of COVID-19 in Australia, and that many announced measures, particularly expanded use of medical telehealth services, are yet to be fully optimised, the AMA believes the next stage of responding to COVID-19 requires strong medical leadership.

Communication:

  1. Consistent, succinct and contemporaneous communication across all media from a single trusted source must be provided. The public has been receiving conflicting and inaccurate information about when they need to be tested, and how they should approach testing, and what comprises effective prevention and mitigation strategies. The messaging has been improving, but this confusion is causing undue community distress and system inefficiency.
  2. Involvement of the medical profession at all levels in planning and disseminating the public health message is essential.

Prevention of spread:

  1. The national response should focus on a greater effort to slow the pace of COVID-19’s spread in Australia as a means to ‘flatten the curve’ of the outbreak.
  2. Australia must act to prevent community transmission by: effectively implementing the announced ban on mass public gatherings; encouraging social distancing; and, minimising social contact where alternatives are readily available (such as working from home, virtual meetings). Public education on effective and sensitive public distancing measures should focus on individual as well as institutional responsibilities.
  3. Planning should be undertaken for potential advanced education centre closures, workplace restrictions, and the possibility of school closures.
  4. Measures to ensure essential services and health service providers are adequately stocked and properly trained in the appropriate use of PPE must be an urgent priority. Access for healthcare personnel to sufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is still inadequate.

Vulnerable Communities:

  1. Communities identified as being vulnerable, and in which morbidity and mortality is expected to be higher, include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; people with complex and chronic disease, the elderly, persons in residential aged care; and, rural and remote populations.
  2. We call for the limiting of non-essential travel to Indigenous rural and remote communities and ask that healthcare delivery be culturally safe. We also ask that rural health needs be considered with emerging COVID-19 related policy and care delivery decisions.
  3. Preparation for potential virus spread in aged care must include published action plans for response to concentrated virus outbreak in residential aged care centres or densely populated areas of older Australians to guide preventive and responsive actions for older Australians, aged care workers, the medical and wider health profession, and those with family members in aged care.

Medical Workforce maintenance and support:

  1. The health, safety, and wellbeing of all healthcare workers must be prioritised to maintain healthcare delivery capacity during the response to COVID-19.
  2. Clear and consistent guidance on COVID-19 testing for health care workers is imperative and testing should be prioritised by pathology services to minimise periods off work due to isolation when not infected with COVID-19.
  3. Preparation for a large proportion of the healthcare workforce needing to self-isolate or cease work due to exposure or illness, and resultant consequences for patient access to care, must be urgently addressed.
  4. In order to minimise community spread of COVID-19 and maintain non-pandemic related health service provision, all doctors in private practice should have immediate access to telehealth for treatment of all patients, not just for screening and treatment of potential COVID-19 infection.
  5. Doctors in private practice, both GPs and other specialists, must be involved in planning and implementation of the COVID-19 response, and clear, accessible and authoritative communication lines must be established.
  6. Extraordinary workforce measures such as recruiting retired or semi-retired doctors and other health workers; reassigning healthcare workers including doctors out of their usual clinical fields; and, utilising medical students as physician extenders or clinical aides must be undertaken only with due consideration of clinical outcomes, personal and community safety outcomes, and without coercion.
  7. Consideration of means to maintain the adequate education, assessment, and continuous professional development of all doctors, including those in training and medical students, is essential as is considering the impact of pandemic related workforce and training disruption on the continuing visa status of internationally trained doctors.
  8. There must be planning for follow-up personal support for all health workers to ensure ongoing psychological wellbeing after this crisis has passed.

Protection of access to health care:

  1. A clear plan for the usual care of patients is needed for patients without COVID-19. It is essential that patients with other pressing clinical needs can access timely care.
  2. The role of the Private Health system in relieving health system pressure due to COVID-19 needs to be included in planning efforts. Releasing the public hospital system from dealing with less acute health problems will help sustain access but will require whole of health sector coordination. For example, it is possible that public elective surgery may need to pause to enable capacity of the public hospital system to receive patients with COVID-19.

The AMA in 2016 called for establishment of a national Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The challenges currently being faced by the Australian community underscores the need for strengthened national coordination of pandemic response capability. Establishment of a CDC is essential at the conclusion of this current emergency.


This AMSANT webpage is a collation of resources to support member services, health professionals and community members relating to COVID-19.  AMSANT will continue to update resources as information becomes available.

Please do not hesitate to contact liz.moore@amsant.org.au if you require additional information.

INFORMATION FOR COMMUNITY MEMBERS
HEALTH PROMOTION INCLUDING HYGIENE RESOURCES
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
ACCESS TO ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES
MEDICARE MBS BILLING INFORMATION
3.Dr Norman Swan Update March 16

4.Mental health care for healthcare workers

For health workers, feeling under pressure is a likely experience for you and many of your health worker colleagues. It is quite normal to be feeling this way in the current situation. Stress and the feelings associated with it are by no means a reflection that you cannot do your job or that you are weak. Managing your mental health and psychosocial wellbeing during this time is as important as managing your physical

Take care of yourself at this time. Try and use helpful coping strategies such as ensuring sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact with family and friends. Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical wellbeing.

This is a unique and unprecedent scenario for many workers, particularly if they have not been involved in similar responses. Even so, using strategies that have worked for you in the past to manage times of stress can benefit you now. You are most likely to know how to de-stress and you should not be hesitant in keeping yourself psychologically This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Some healthcare workers may unfortunately experience avoidance by their family or community due to stigma or fear. This can make an already challenging situation far more difficult. If possible, staying connected with your loved ones including through digital methods is one way to maintain contact. Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support- your colleagues may be having similar experiences to

Use understandable ways to share messages with people with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities. Forms of communication that do not rely solely on written information should be utilized If you are a team leader or manager in a health

Know how to provide support to, for people who are affected with COVID-19 and know how to link them with available resources. This is especially important for those who require mental health and psychosocial support. The stigma associated with mental health problems may cause reluctance to seek support for both COVID-19 and mental health conditions.

The mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide includes clinical guidance for addressing priority mental health conditions and is designed for use by general health workers.

Download 

mental-health-considerations

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Communities #CoronaVirus News Alert No 10 of 10 March 17 : Contributions updates from our CEO Pat Turner and Dr Mark Wenitong plus messages from Debbie Kilroy and Thema Plum who have tested positive

 

In this special Corona Virus edition 10

1.The Guardian: Pat Turner Calls on the army for community help

2.The Australian Community visits to communities banned

3. SkyNews :NT Bans travel to remote Indigenous communities

4.Debbie Kilroy tests positive

5.DR Mark Wenitong update Cape York Communities : Today’s update

6.Thelma Plum Tests positive

7. Preventing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Read all 10 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

1.The Guardian : Pat Turner Calls on the army for community help

Australia’s peak Aboriginal health group, representing hundreds of health care services, wants state and territory governments to make urgent arrangements to protect Aboriginal people in remote areas who are highly vulnerable to Covid-19.

From the Guardian 

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (Naccho) said governments should consider deploying the army in remote areas, where health workers face major challenges in containing any outbreak, including a lack of access to equipment, testing and urgent emergency care.

“Everybody has to step up, that’s how serious this is,” the Naccho CEO, Pat Turner, said.

“State and territory governments need to do everything they can to stop this getting into our communities. If this gets into any remote community, there will be a high rate of deaths. Our communities will be devastated, because of the already low levels of health.

“The army is our friend in this situation. They have the necessary resources, and we should be briefing army health co-ordinators and have them on standby to be deployed [to places that] we have difficulty reaching, helping us manage this pandemic,” Turner said.

Remote-area health workers urgently need more personal protective equipment, she said, after receiving reports that clinics in the Kimberley region of Western Australia had received only two sets each of masks, gloves and gowns for healthcare staff to use.

Turner said the equipment is essential for remote workers because timely testing is not available and they are relying on clinical diagnosis of Covid-19.

“It can take up to two weeks for tests to be returned, and in that time, if someone has it, the whole community will get it,” Turner said.

Local and state governments must prepare isolation and quarantine centres, she said, because “self-isolation is just unrealistic where there’s overcrowding in housing because of decades and decades of government neglect.

The state governments need to be working with local communities to identify structures that can be adapted for isolation, and they need two kinds: one for suspected cases, and the other for people who are known to have it.”

Naccho is providing a briefing for the Aboriginal taskforce on Covid-19, which will report to the national cabinet today .

“The national cabinet meeting tomorrow should realise the seriousness of this for Aboriginal Australia and make sure the necessary resources are provided immediately,” Turner said.

“We need information urgently on what to do in every situation. Our health services need to know.”

Naccho represents 143 Aboriginal community-controlled health services across the country.

On the weekend, the Northern Land Council (NLC) suspended all existing non-essential permits to visit Aboriginal lands, and said it won’t grant any new ones until further notice.

“The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people,” the CEO, Marion Scrymgour, said.

“This decision will not affect the permits issued to doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, council workers and others that provide essential services for Aboriginal people out bush,” she said.

The NLC and Naccho have both called on the federal government to consider the concerns of the traditional Aboriginal owners of Kakadu national park, who say it should close immediately. Parks Australia has been contacted for comment.

On the Tiwi Islands, the weekend’s AFL grand final and art fair, which usually draw thousands of visitors, were closed to outsiders.

The Northern Territory government said it is implementing current national advice for self-isolation of 14 days for all international arrivals and a ban on cruise ships for 30 days. Government schools across the Northern Territory will remain open.

It has produced health announcements in nine Aboriginal languages, including Warlpiri and Yolngumatha, and set up a hotline for territory residents: 1800 008 002.

There is one confirmed case of Covid-19 in the Northern Territory: a tourist who is currently in Royal Darwin hospital.

2.The Australian : Community visits to communities banned

From The Australian March 17

Aboriginal communities across northern and inland Australia are moving to protect themselves from the coronavirus by restricting contact with the outside world.

The Northern Territory on Monday announced a ban on all non-essential visits to about 70 ­remote settlements, endorsed by the major Aboriginal land councils. It comes as leaders in parts of Western Australia’s Kimberley ­region prepare to isolate their communities for several weeks and move frail relatives to distant outstations.

Several Queensland state ­departments have already suspended bush travel, with Aboriginal community heads calling for a lockout of all but essential service

South Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands announced strict entry rules ­earlier this month with the support of Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.

However, doubts are emerging about whether indigenous people will respect movement restrictions, and if they could be attracted to towns by stimulus handouts.

Experts think indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because they suffer higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and rheumatic heart disease. Research after the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic showed indigenous people were more than eight times more likely to be hospitalised.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner assured remote Territorians that banning non-essential travel did not mean leaving them to fend for themselves. “Everything you need to be healthy and safe, you will have,” he said.

“The people that you need to be there will be there. But the health advice to us is also clear: you are safest in your home communities.

“To protect you, we are keeping non-essential people away from you. If you don’t need to travel out of your community, then don’t. Just like the rest of us, you are safer in your home community.”

The dirt road to the West Australian town of Balgo will be closed on Sunday for at least five weeks after Wirrimanu Council members decided it was the only way to keep people safe. Should COVID-19 still threaten their community, they plan to move elders even further into the bush.

WA Chief Health Officer ­Andrew Robertson said discussions were under way with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and St John Ambulance about transport from remote areas.

“It’s obviously going to place a strain on some budgets, but these are unusual circumstances,” he said. “We expect that mild cases could be managed at home.”

Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher said it was now “too dangerous” to allow unrestricted movement into the Cape York ­indigenous community.

Additional reporting: Michael McKenna

3.SkyNews: NT Bans travel to remote Indigenous communities

 

4.Debbie Kilroy tests positive: her message 

SATURDAY: We were on the same plane as Peter Dutton earlier so we had to be tested for coronavirus on Saturday when we arrived back from the USA. We have now been quarantined and awaiting test results. I am confused as to why the PM & other Cabinet members were not quarantined after being in contact with Dutton & we were.

UPDATE: Tests came back for #COVIDー19 & Neta-Rie Mabo & I have coronavirus.

We are not being hospitalised as there’s limited beds available. We are the first ones being quarantined in community.

Yes it’s frightening but I’m healthy & so is Neta. We should be fine after 14 days ♥️ Take care of yourselves plz cause this virus is serious for our most disadvantaged people in our communities.

The way to slow the spread of this virus is to self quarantine. Plz take responsibility and self quarantine.

Take the advice from medical professionals not politicians who are playing politics with our lives.

Take care of yourselves 😍

 

5.DR Mark Wenitong update Cape York Communities

 

6.Thelma Plun Tests positive

Australian singer-songwriter Thelma Plum has expressed concern around the impact of coronavirus on vulnerable communities after testing positive for the disease.

Plum says she is “doing really good” while in Brisbane Metro North Hospital after being diagnosed on Sunday.

One of Queensland’s 68 cases, she has not indicated where and when she may have caught the disease but said doctors indicted she will remain in hospital until at least Friday.

The proud Indigenous woman urged prioritisation of Australia’s most vulnerable people in response to the crisis.

“I cannot stress enough how much this virus has the potential to severely harm our communities (particularly our Indigenous communities),” she wrote on Instagram.

“We need to know that the public health system is going to care for our communities.”

Plum said she was worried about disadvantaged people spreading the disease while being unable to stay home from work when infectious.

“Schools need to be shut down but there needs to be structures in place that can ensure low income families and vulnerable people aren’t being left in the dark.

“People need to work from home and if they aren’t able to, the government needs to step in (and) fin

7. Preventing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Example of our ACCHO Info sharing with communities

There is greater risk of COVID-19 causing serious illness in individuals living in communities with chronic disease, such as remote Indigenous communities.

From HERE

What individuals can do

To limit the spread of Coronavirus to and within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, individuals are asked to take the following precautions:

  • Do not travel to a remote community unless necessary
  • To prevent germs spreading, wash your hands often with soap and water or with disinfectant rub for about 20 seconds
    • Clean hands are essential before eating or preparing food, and after going to the bathroom
  • Avoid touching your own eyes, mouth and nose
  • Shower regularly and practice good hygiene
  • Avoid touching other people (hugs, handshaking) unless absolutely necessary
  • Maintain your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing as much as possible
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you are concerned and have a fever, cough, sore throat and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention but call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

What community leaders can do

Community leaders can:

  • Consider options for restricting non-essential travel in and out of communities.
  • Identify the most effective way to communicate messages to your community (eg. Shop noticeboards, men’s groups, mother’s groups, schools, Facebook, community radio)
  • Promote good hygiene practices and make available handwashing/hygiene facilities throughout the community.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Communities #CoronaVirus News Alerts March 13- 16 : Contributions from our CEO Pat Turner, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Dr Mark Wenitong, Dr Norman Swan and Marion Scrymgour

In this special Corona Virus edition

1.Pat Turner NACCHO Appearance on The Drum

2.Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conference

3.Department of Health download videos

4.Dr Norman Swan

5.DR Mark Wenitong

6.Marion Scrymgour CEO NLC

Read all previous Aboriginal Health and Corona Virus articles published by NACCHO since January

1.Pat Turner NACCHO Appearance on The Drum

Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), warned tonight that if the novel coronavirus gets into Aboriginal communities, “it will be absolute devastation without a doubt”.

In particular, she urged state and local governments to lift their games, but acknowledged that some local governments, like those in Alice Springs and Halls Creek, were acting.

Turner also called for action to address “the national disgrace” of inadequate Aboriginal housing given the implications for infection control, and for screening of communities in vulnerable areas, stating that the docking of a cruise ship in Broome today had caught health authorities unawares.

The ACCHO sector had been working very hard to get out information to communities and clinics, but needed the Government to fund their services at a realistic level, she told ABC TV’s The Drum program.” 

Urgent calls for more resources to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from COVID-19 From Croakey Read HERE in full 

Watch the full episode of The Drum on IView (Available till 20 March )

2.Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conference

 “Today, I now want to move to the decisions that we have taken that were consistent with the plan that I’ve outlined to you.

First of all, the National Security Committee met before the National Cabinet today and we resolved to do the following things; to help stay ahead of this curve we will impose a universal precautionary self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals to Australia, and that is effective from midnight tonight.

Further, the Australian government will also ban cruise ships from foreign ports from arriving at Australian ports after an initial 30 days and that will go forward on a voluntary basis. The National Cabinet also endorsed the advice of the AHPPC today to further introduce social distancing measures.

Before I moved to those, I just wanted to be clear about those travel restrictions that I’ve just announced. All people coming to Australia will be required, will be required I stress, to self isolate for 14 days.

This is very important. What we’ve seen in recent, in the recent weeks is more countries having issues with the virus.

And that means that the source of some of those transmissions are coming from more and more countries.

Bans have been very effective to date. And what this measure will do is ensure that particularly Australians who are the majority of people coming to Australia now on these flights, when they come back to Australia, they’re self-isolation for 14 days will do an effective job in flattening this curve as we go forward.

And there are major decisions that were taken today that reflect changing where we are heading.

The facts and the science, the medical advice will continue to drive and support the decisions that we are making as a National Cabinet, as indeed as a federal Cabinet at the Commonwealth level.

But the truth is that while many people will contract this virus that it’s clear, just as people get the flu each year, it is a more severe condition than the flu, but for the vast majority, as I said last week, for the majority, around 8 in 10 is our advice, it will be a mild illness and it will pass. “

 Prime Minister Scott Morrison press conference 15 march : Download full Transcript here 

PM Scott Morrison press conference full transcript

Download PM Press Release

Prime Ministers Press Release

3.Department of Health campaign download videos 

Download Videos

Coronavirus video – Help Stop The Spread

Coronavirus video – Recent Traveller

Coronavirus video – Stay Informed

Coronavirus video – Good Hygiene Starts Here

Dr Norman Swan provides some simple advice regarding Coronavirus.

– Wash your hands regularly with soap and water; or with hand sanitiser.

– Try to keep your distance from other people; and avoid physical contact

– If you need to sneeze or cough, do it into a fresh tissue which you then discard; or into your elbow.

– If you have a cough or a cold, it’s most likely that you have just a cough or a cold; but talk to your Doctor about it before turning up to a surgery.

For more information visit http://www.abc.net.au/coronavirus or http://www.health.gov.au

5. Dr Mark Wenitong

Dr Mark speaks with Black Star Radio about Coronavirus and the simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

“If you’re not sure, give the clinic a call and we’ll tell you what to do.” Dr Mark

 

6.Marion Scrymgour CEO NLC

“The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people in their communities who are very concerned about the spread of COVID-19.

Should this virus break out in our communities, we don’t have the manpower to deal with this.

The NLC will be launching an information campaign in Indigenous languages to inform people about hygiene, testing for coronavirus and for them to avoid travel outside communities.

NLC staff have also cancelled their non-essential travel to communities including its regional council meetings.

“Somebody could come out and they could get infected and then go back into the community.

“The position we’re taking is if we can push back that virus taking hold in our communities, that’s a good thing. It means we can work at getting better prepared.”

The decision comes after the Northern Territory Government decided it will stop its employees from making non-essential travel to remote communities.

The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people in their communities who are very concerned about the spread of COVID-19 “

Chief executive officer Marion Scrymgour said the move was to protect Aboriginal people in the communities who already faced issues like chronic health conditions, lack of resources and overcrowded housing.

Read in full HERE

NACCHO Aboriginal Remote Communities Health and #CoronaVirus News Alerts :  #APYLands  @Nganampa_Health @NLC_74 #CAAHSN @AMSANTaus @RACGP All ensuring remote communities are resourced , protected and provided with appropriate information #COVID19

 

“As health and medical research organisations, we are calling for an absolute priority to be given to minimising risk and preventing death in communities across central Australia.

A major priority in our endeavours is working with Aboriginal communities and support to the primary health services in the bush and our regional centres.

Things that might work in. the big cities simply won’t work out bush, so we need to focus on local solutions.

Both Aboriginal community-controlled and government primary health services face enormous day-to-day challenges—and we strongly support them as the real heroes of health care in remote Australia, from Aboriginal Health Practitioners, to nurses to allied health workers to doctors, to all staff doing such vital work “

CAAHSN would continue to be informed by COVID19  messaging from AMSANT Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance and the Department of Health.

AMSANT has already been supplying advice to member services, with a focus on updating vaccinations and a focus on day-to-day preventive measure such as had washing.

Read full press release Central Australia Academic Health Science Network Part 2 Below

Graphic above QAIHC

Read all NACCHO Corona Virus Articles HERE

” As GPs try to navigate national guidelines for coronavirus (COVID-19), a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders have stepped in to manage their own infection control.

For example, in the Northern Territory quite a few communities are putting in place their own procedures around how they’re going to manage it. ’ 

‘[They’re] isolating themselves from [the] outside and I gather even saying, “Actually, we don’t want health professionals coming in at the moment to keep ourselves safe”.’

Dr Tim Senior, Medical Advisor for RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP. See report part 4 below

“We need to be vigilant and follow these guidelines in order to protect Anangu from this virus,

There have been no known COVID-19 cases among APY Lands residents to date, but the Prime Minister has expressed concern about the vulnerability of those in remote Indigenous communities, including the APY Lands.

During the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu outbreak, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11 per cent of all identified cases, 20 per cent of hospitalisations and 13 per cent of deaths. Indigenous people are 8.5 times more likely to be hospitalised during a virus outbreak.”

APY General Manager Richard King has issued the directive to all APY staff and contractors. The directive also has been issued to Nganampa Health Council and major allied non-government organisations. State and Commonwealth government agencies, that are not required to apply for a permit to enter the APY Lands, have been contacted seeking their co-operation.

Mr King said communities on the APY Lands were particularly vulnerable because of well-documented poor health and living conditions. See full press release part 3

Part 1 NLC

“ The NLC supports the NT Government’s call to cancel all non-essential trips to remote communities as it tries to prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable populations and has taken steps to ensure that all NLC employees who have recently travelled overseas do not travel to remote communities unless they have been cleared to do so.

“We agree with the NT Government’s decision to ask all workers to cancel their trips if they are not essential and the same goes for NLC staff,”

NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour.

Part 1 :The Northern Land Council’s Executive Council met today with officials from the Northern Territory Department of Health and the Danila Dilba Health Service’s CEO Ms Olga Havnen to examine strategies and information focused on protecting Aboriginal communities in the NLC’s region from the risk of coronavirus.

The NLC supports the NT Government’s call to cancel all non-essential trips to remote communities as it tries to prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable populations and has taken steps to ensure that all NLC employees who have recently travelled overseas do not travel to remote communities unless they have been cleared to do so.

“We agree with the NT Government’s decision to ask all workers to cancel their trips if they are not essential and the same goes for NLC staff,” said NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour.

Ms Scrymgour will meet with NT Tourism tomorrow (March 13) to discuss how tourism operators can minimise their potential impact on remote communities.

NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said the NLC is working closely with the NT Government and health service providers to  working

“We want people to really think about their need to visit remote communities. Especially if they have returned from an at risk country they must not travel to Aboriginal communities and must take every precaution.”

NT Government website COVID19 Information for Aboriginal communities

  • There are currently no suspected cases of COVID-19 in any Territory communities.
  • Residents should stay alert but carry on with normal activities.
  • There is no risk to eating traditional animals and plants.
  • The virus is not spread by mosquito bites.
  • The virus is not spread on the wind.
  • The most important thing for everyone to remember is to maintain hygiene by:
    • Washing your hands
    • Avoid shaking hands with people who may be unwel
    • Stay at a distance of 1.5 m away from someone who is unwell
    • Coughing or sneezing into your elbow
    • Don’t go to crowded places if you’re unwell.
  • If you get sick, go to your health clinic.

Recordings in language

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) Public Health Remote Communities Plan has been developed and distributed to all remote Territory communities. This plan provides high level guidance and each community will tailor their individual plans to suit their specific circumstances and community requirements.

Part 2

At a Council meeting of the Central Australia Academic Health Science Network [CA AHSN] today, a call was made for decisive and urgent action on the prevention of COVID-19 spreading to remote Australian communities, Executive Director Chips Mackinolty said today.

“We are in this together, and we have a collective responsibility at all levels of government and health service delivery to keep people safe,” said Mr Mackinolty.

“As health and medical research organisations, we are calling for an absolute priority to be given to minimising risk and preventing death in communities across central Australia.

“A major priority in our endeavours is working with Aboriginal communities and support to the primary health services in the bush and our regional centres.

“Things that might work in. the big cities simply won’t work out bush, so we need to focus on local solutions.

“We believe it is critical that rapid and extensive testing be rolled out as soon as possible, so that such work is timely and localised. As a first step this should be located in Alice Springs, rapidly followed by other regional centres.

“Of paramount concern is that our health services—already severely under resourced—not be further burdened. Just as happened in the recent bush fire crises, we would see it as essential that Commonwealth-funded remote area health medical workers being brought in to help.

“Both Aboriginal community-controlled and government primary health services face enormous day-to-day challenges—and we strongly support them as the real heroes of health care in remote Australia, from Aboriginal Health Practitioners, to nurses to allied health workers to doctors, to all staff doing such vital work.

“Meanwhile, our research activities will limit fieldwork, and researchers recently overseas will not be allowed to travel remotely. This follows the initiatives already of some of our partner organisations

In any case, we will also seek to follow the recommendations of local Aboriginal community organisations in our work.

“A major priority, from the Commonwealth and NT governments should be a major effort in proving accurate and concise information to Aboriginal people—with a stron

Part 3 MEDIA STATEMENT: APY enacts border protection to reduce coronavirus risk

APY has introduced strict new rules for entry into its remote lands in response to the Federal Government’s concerns about the potential for coronavirus to spread in vulnerable Indigenous communities.

The Executive Board that governs the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, in South
Australia’s far northwest, addressed the threat of a coronavirus outbreak at its latest meeting.

The Board has resolved not to routinely issue entry permits for the next three months to anyone who has:

  • Been in mainland China from 1 February 2020.
  • Been in contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus.
  • Travelled to China, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Mongolia.

If a person who wishes to enter the APY Lands has travelled to any of the affected countries, experienced coronavirus symptoms in the previous 14 days, been seen by a doctor and recorded a negative test, they must submit a copy of the test results along with a Statutory Declaration to be considered for an entry permit.

APY has the legal authority to exclude persons from entering the APY Lands pursuant to section 19 of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act. APY General Manager Richard King has issued the directive to all APY staff and contractors.

The directive also has been issued to Nganampa Health Council and major allied non-government organisations. State and Commonwealth government agencies, that are not required to apply for a permit to enter the APY Lands, have been contacted seeking their co-operation.

Part 4 RACGP 

Media report RACGP Dr Tim Senior : Chronic diseases and a lack of access to culturally appropriate care makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people vulnerable to coronavirus.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CoronaVirus Alert 7 of 7 : Peak bodies welcome Prime Minister’s $2.4 billion #COVID19 health package with emphasis on #Indigenous communities , #Telehealth and communications

 ” The Australian Government has unveiled a comprehensive $2.4 billion health package to protect all Australians, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with chronic conditions and Indigenous communities, from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

$58.7 million to support people living and working in remote locations, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including tools to proactively screen visitors and fly-in, fly-out workers, additional support to evacuate early cases if required, and mobile respiratory clinics to quickly respond to outbreaks where there is no hospital or available health service. ” 

From Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Press Release

The provision of bulk-billed telehealth medical services, home medicine deliveries, support for additional aged care staff and increased service capacity for First Nations People in remote locations are all welcome and much-needed initiatives,

CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells.

This is a really good start but there is much more to do to reduce the movement and spread of the virus.

The AMA has been calling for the telehealth items since the bushfire crisis to help doctors and patients in emergency situations.

The new telehealth items will help doctors to safely assess patients who may have contracted coronavirus.

GPs will be able to assess people who are concerned that they may have come into contact with Covid-19 and help contain the virus, particularly as most people will simply need to self-isolate while recovering from it.

This initiative will support and protect patients who are more vulnerable to the impact of the virus by keeping them away from areas where they might be exposed to the virus, and help to minimise the risks of transmission.”

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today that the AMA welcomes the Government’s Covid-19 health package – especially the roll-out of new Medicare telehealth items and respiratory clinics.

 

Media report RACGP Dr Tim Senior : Chronic diseases and a lack of access to culturally appropriate care makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people vulnerable to coronavirus.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CoronaVirus News Alert

Communique from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on #COVID19

http://bit.ly/38M2Uju

The package provides unprecedented support across primary care, aged care, hospitals, research and the national medical stockpile.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government was ensuring Australia’s health system was well-prepared and had the resources it needed to fight coronavirus and protect the community.

“Australia isn’t immune but with this $2.4 billion boost we’re as well prepared as any country in the world,” the Prime Minister said.

“This package is about preventing and treating coronavirus in the coming weeks.

“Our medical experts have been preparing for an event like this for years and this is the next step up in Australia’s plan.

“Our Government alongside the country’s leading medical experts is working around the clock to ensure we have the right tools, information and resources to keep Australians safe.”

Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the Government was boosting the capacity of the health system to effectively assess, diagnose and treat people with COVID-19 in a way that minimises spread of the disease in the community.

“We are ensuring people can access essential care in a way that reduces their potential exposure to infection. This includes support for telehealth, primary care and medical supplies,” Minister Hunt said.

Primary care

$100 million will fund a new Medicare service for people in home isolation or quarantine, as a result coronavirus, to receive health consultations via the phone or video such as FaceTime or Skype.

The telehealth service will help contain the spread of the virus and it will be bulk-billed at no cost to patients and will be available from Friday 13 March.

These telehealth consultation services will be provided by doctors, both GPs and specialists, nurses and mental health allied health workers and will also be available under Medicare for people aged over 70, people with chronic diseases, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant people and new parents with babies.

These people are at greater risk from the virus and treatment home will minimise their risk of exposure.  This will be available to these groups for non-coronavirus consultations as a general health measure.

The Government will provide $25 million to fund home medicines services which will enable patients to have their PBS prescriptions filled online or remotely, and have the medicines delivered to their home.

This service will be available for people in home isolation and for vulnerable patient groups.

All pharmacies with e-prescribing will be eligible to participate in the home medicines services and patients will continue to retain choice in their preferred community pharmacy.

To support GPs and pharmacies, the Government will fast track the rollout of electronic prescribing across Australia with funding of $5 million.

Patients will have access to services via the GP, telehealth, the national hotline, state hotlines, dedicated respiratory clinics and hospitals.

The national triage phone line will therefore be expanded with an additional $50.7 million in funding, operating 24/7 to provide advice to patients.

The free-call hotline will advise people on the best course of action depending on their symptoms and risks. Medical staff will direct people to the nearest hospital or respiratory clinic, or advise them to stay home and self-monitor, or contact their GP.

People who are not severely ill with COVID-19 – 80 per cent of people will have a mild illness – will be directed to GPs or a network of well-resourced GP-led respiratory clinics.

The Government is investing $206.7 million for up to 100 dedicated respiratory clinics.  The Primary Health Networks will co-ordinate with the AMA, RACGP and states and territories to identify areas of need.  The clinics will be a one-stop-shop for people who are concerned they may have the virus, to be tested and isolated from other patients.

People living and working in remote locations, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, will benefit from increased capacity to prevent outbreaks, including the tools to proactively screen visitors and fly-in, fly-out workers, additional support to evacuate early cases if required, and mobile respiratory clinics to quickly respond to outbreaks where there is no hospital or available health service. $58.7 million will be provided to support these functions.

The Government will establish dedicated Medicare funded and bulk billed pathology test for COVID-19.  This is expected to cost $170.2 million and patients will also receive both the COVID-19 and flu test.  Funding will also be provided for pathology testing to be conducted in aged care facilities.

Aged care

Senior Australians will be protected through a major funding boost of $101.2 million to educate and train aged care workers in infection control, and enable aged care providers to hire extra nurses and aged care workers for both residential and home care.

Additional aged care staff will be available for deployment to facilities as needed, where an urgent health response is required and to provide extra support for staff and training.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will receive additional funding to work with providers on improving infection control.

Hospitals

The Government has already announced $500 million in funding for the states and territories for COVID-19. The Commonwealth will pay for half of all additional costs incurred by states and territories in diagnosing and treating patients with COVID-19, or suspected of having the disease, and efforts to minimise the spread of the disease. This will be provided on a 50-50 basis for state health COVID-19 activities both within and outside hospitals.

The funding, beginning with an initial upfront payment of $100 million from the Commonwealth, is over and above ongoing public hospitals funding to the states and territories under the National Health Reform Agreement. The funding will be uncapped and demand driven.

Research

The Government will allocate $30 million from the Medical Research Future Fund for vaccine, anti-viral and respiratory medicine research. This will enable Australian researchers to be at the forefront of the drive to develop both treatments and a vaccine.

National Support for Ongoing Response

Ensuring Australia has sufficient medicines, face masks and other personal protective equipment is crucial to the COVID-19 response. Funding of $1.1 billion will ensure patients and critical health care staff have face masks, and other protective equipment such as surgical gowns, goggles and hand sanitiser for health professionals.

This funding will also be used to purchase antibiotics and antivirals for the National Medical Stockpile, so that patients who experience secondary infection as a result of COVID-19 can be treated quickly, and health effects minimised.

The Government will also invest $30 million in infection control training and programs for health and aged care workers.

Communication

$30 million will deliver a new national communications campaign – across all media – to provide people with practical advice on how they can play their part in containing the virus and staying healthy.

The campaign will keep the health and aged care industry informed, including providing up to date clinical guidance, triaging and caring for patients, development of an app and advice to workers in looking after their own safety.

The information will be based on the most up to date medical advice and will be targeted at the entire community as well as high risk groups and in up to 20 languages.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CoronaVirus News Alert : Communique from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on #COVID-19

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 (the taskforce) met for the second time on Tuesday, 10 March 2020.

The taskforce provided significant input into the development of the national primary care target action response, with insights on workforce planning, cultural safety, the importance of prompt access to test results and the practicalities around maintaining service continuity when demand increases.

The Taskforce also agreed the preparation of culturally appropriate and consistent advice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services and Communities is a priority, together with the identification of the infrastructure, equipment and overall capacity to provide a the swift response required to address COVID-19.

For remote communities, the taskforce discussed the importance of involving all community service organisations, such as Local Councils, Land Councils, schools and not just health services, in the development of local COVID-19 preparedness and response management plans.

In addition, the plans will need to include local protocols for respiratory clinics where appropriate and ready evacuation procedures for the very sick.

The Taskforce also acknowledged the importance of an appropriate and proportionate urban and regional response given the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in those areas.

Members provided very comprehensive advice on a range of associated issues that also require attention including the provision of the Influenza 2020 vaccination in a timely manner.

Co-chaired by the Department of Health and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), the taskforce includes Public Health Medical Officers and leaders from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector, Aboriginal Health Services, state and territory government public health and medical officials, Aboriginal communicable disease experts, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

The taskforce will next meet on Thursday, 12 March 2020.

2. NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Corona Virus News Alerts

Read all our posts HERE

3. Current examples of media coverage and information sharing (NT) 

ABC News report on Monday 9 March 2020 by @SowaibahH on Aboriginal community concerns about the COVID-19/Coronavirus in the NT, particularly across Arnhem Land ( see Video below )

Information for NT Aboriginal communities:

• There are currently no suspected cases of COVID-19 in any Aboriginal communities in the NT.
• Residents should stay alert but carry on with normal activities.
• There is no risk to eating traditional animals and plants.
• The virus is not spread by mosquito bites.
• The virus is not spread on the wind.

The most important thing for everyone to remember is to maintain hygiene by:

• Washing your hands
• Avoid shaking hands with people who may be sick
• Stay at a distance of 1.5 m away from someone who is sick
• Coughing or sneezing into your elbow
• Don’t go to crowded places if you’re sick
• If you get sick, go to your health clinic

More information and updates: https://securent.nt.gov.au/

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and #COVID19 News : A decade on, swine flu legacy shapes our Indigenous response to #coronavirus : With commentary from James Ward , Olga Havnen and FAQ’s AMSANT

We definitely didn’t get it right in 2009, and there have been plenty of papers written about that.

But Aboriginal people are much more engaged in this (COVID19 ) planning process, so we’re in a much better position than we were then.”

University of Queensland Indigenous health expert James Ward, a member of the working committee that drafted the new guidelines, released on Wednesday .

Full article Part 2 below and for Indigenous guidelines see Part 3 below or Download HERE.

interim-COVID-19–

Read all NACCHO Corona Virus articles HERE

” Major issues include housing people, and the deployment of additional health workforce capacity.

We would need deployment based on where the need is greatest, and will people want to do it? This will need a dynamic response.

But the commonwealth has a clear sense of the need to provide good structures for the vulnerable in our communities.

“The key thing is getting good information, clear and consistent, to our communities.

And the big message is hand-washing.”

There are major issues to consider, “depending on how serious it gets, and events as they unfold”, according to Olga Havnen, a member of the taskforce and CEO of the Darwin-based Aboriginal health organisation Danila Dilba

See Guardian article Part 1 below

AMSANT is engaging with our members, NACCHO and the Northern Territory Government and  Commonwealth Governments  about supporting our members and Aboriginal communities through a potential COVID 19 outbreak : Download

FAQ-COVID-19-Update-2.-6-March-FV

The federal government has set up a national Indigenous advisory group to fast-track an emergency response plan for Aboriginal communities that are among the most vulnerable to any potential spread of Covid-19.

The taskforce met last Thursday as remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia began to strictly limit visitors for the next three months, worried that if Covid-19 arrives it will be “devastating” for their elders and people with existing health problems.

The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) have introduced strict rules for entry to their lands, which they can to do under the APY Land Rights Act.

“We are protecting our people, especially those who hold our ancient cultural knowledge, and we know they are already vulnerable as they are quite old,” APY general manager Richard King said.

“A lot of our people present with comorbidities like diabetes and renal failure. We have high smoking rates, overcrowding in housing, overall poor hygiene.

“It’s almost a perfect storm to support the transmission of these types of diseases.

“The problem with this one is it has a 3.4% fatality rate, which is high, but with our cohort, if it gets here, it’s going to be devastating.”

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory group on Covid-19 is made up of leaders from the Aboriginal community controlled health sector, state and territory health and medical officials, Aboriginal communicable disease experts, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

The new taskforce will consider the health, social and cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, using principles of shared decision-making and co-design. The management plan will focus on current containment activities as well as preparations for mitigation and treatment phases.

The APY board decided on Thursday to refuse entry for the next three months to anyone who has been in mainland China since early February, or been in contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus, or who has travelled to Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Mongolia.

Anyone in those categories who wants to visit needs to have tested negative for the virus, and will have to submit a copy of the test results along with a statutory declaration to be considered for entry.

State and federal agencies don’t need to apply for a permit to enter but King said he hoped they would comply with the ban.

Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt has agreed to postpone a scheduled visit next month.

There have been no known Covid-19 cases on APY lands to date, but the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has expressed concern about the vulnerability of those in remote Indigenous communities.

During the 2009 swine flu outbreak, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11% of all identified cases, 20% of hospitalisations and 13% of deaths.

The Northern Territory is also developing a remote health pandemic plan, due to be released this week .

NT Chief medical officer Dianne Stephens acknowledged the “significant” logistical problems with using self-isolation as a response in remote communities, where overcrowding in housing is a major issue.

“So we are working out ways in every community where we can institute social distancing, where we can have a safe place for people to be quarantined if they’re unwell,” she said.

The NT health minister, Natasha Fyles, announced yesterday that a pandemic clinic had been set up at Royal Darwin hospital

Part 2

Australian health authorities preparing for the threat of a widening COVID-19 outbreak have taken the unprecedented step of producing specific guidelines to protect highly vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The initiative is underwritten by memories of the devastating toll on Indigenous communities from the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

An Aboriginal person from a Central Desert community was the first national casualty of that outbreak, with the Indigenous population ultimately suffering death rates six times higher from that crisis than the general population.

“Aboriginal people are much more engaged in this planning process, so we’re in a much better position than we were then”: University of Queensland Indigenous health expert James Ward.

“We definitely didn’t get it right in 2009, and there have been plenty of papers written about that,” said University of Queensland Indigenous health expert James Ward, a member of the working committee that drafted the new guidelines, released on Wednesday.

“But Aboriginal people are much more engaged in this planning process, so we’re in a much better position than we were then.”

Aboriginal health researcher Kristy Crooks said the exclusion of Indigenous people from decision-making was a crucial failure in the government response to the 2009 pandemic.

“The flu pandemic showed that the one-size-fits-all approach to public health emergencies are unlikely to work for our communities, so tailoring approaches to meet the needs of families is important,” said Crooks, a PhD candidate with the Menzies School of Health Research at Charles Darwin University.

It is the first time federal authorities have tailored an epidemic response plan to a specific community.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in any Indigenous communities, however health authorities confirmed the first case of the virus in Darwin on Wednesday, raising the prospect that it may spread to remote communities in the Northern Territory.

Ward said that Indigenous Australians faced a number of risk factors for respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.

One quarter of the Indigenous population lives in remote areas, which makes access to health services difficult. While many communities had some health services, he said, they are already at capacity and therefore ill-equipped to handle the surge in demand an outbreak of COVID-19 would bring.

The Indigenous population is also highly mobile, with people frequently travelling between communities, often over long distances. Many also live at close quarters in overcrowded housing, meaning disease can spread rapidly and widely.

Then there is the reality, underlined in the latest Closing the Gap Report to Federal Parliament, that Indigenous Australians are already sicker than the rest of the population, and have far more comorbidities, which can make respiratory illnesses much more severe. This was often compounded by a reticence within the Indigenous community to seek medical care, Ward said.

“I think it’s quite clear that Aboriginal people have had very negative experiences with health care services,” he said. “So our population might ignore or not recognise symptoms, or think ‘why would it be coronavirus?’.

“So they might present late to a hospital or clinic, and that may be too late to prevent major outbreaks in communities.”

The newly published guidelines include six “key response strategies” for assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the event of an outbreak.

Several focus on appropriate communication and engagement with community leaders, to ensure Indigenous people are at the heart of the decision-making process.

Kristy Crooks said the direction for people to isolate themselves from the rest of their community during the flu pandemic was unrealistic due to cultural and family obligations outweighing national health policies.

“Celebrations are seen as important as sorry business, so people might have still attended large events and gatherings while sick with respiratory problems.”

Crookes will be considering how pandemic planning for COVID-19 can be tailored to communities through First Nations panels.

The research, supported by the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies, will empower Indigenous people to determine what the best strategies are to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading in their communities, Crooks said.

The working committee responsible for the Indigenous response will remain in constant communication with both the chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, as well as hundreds of health organisations and Indigenous community leaders around the country.

“We will be monitoring very closely to ensure that appropriate messaging and communication goes out to Aboriginal communities,” said Ward. In the Northern Territory, this will include delivering messages to remote communities in the local language.

But Ward said it was equally important to involve non-Indigenous organisations in the preparations.

“We need to make sure there is an adequate response from other organisations too, because this will ensure flexibility in delivering the necessary health care services.”

The new guidelines also include provisions for quarantine and isolation in Indigenous communities, emphasising that families need to be involved in the decision-making around quarantine.

“This can be achieved through exploring with families what quarantine looks like, working through how it might impact on the family and their way of living, and identifying ways around it.”

Ward said at this stage Indigenous health services, including those in remote communities, were not being sent any extra medical supplies or personnel.

“There’s a whole lot of activity going on, obviously, but at the moment there is no coronavirus in a remote community and we don’t expect it’s an immediate threat.”

Part 3 : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Key drivers of increased risk of transmission and severity

  • Mobility: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are highly mobile, with frequent travel often linked to family and cultural connections and community events involving long distances between cities, towns, and communities. In addition, remote communities have a high flow of visitors (e.g. tourists, fly-in fly-out clinicians and other workers). This increases the risk of transmission even in generally isolated
  • Remoteness: A fifth of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population lives in remote and very remote areas. There is often reduced access health services, these are usually at capacity in normal circumstances and are often reliant on temporary staff. Limited transport options may further inhibit presentations and delay laboratory
  • Barriers to access: Unwell people may present late in disease progression for many reasons including lack of availability of services, institutional racism, and mistrust of mainstream health
  • Overcrowding: Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have insufficient housing infrastructure, which results in people living in overcrowded conditions. This facilitates disease transmission and makes it difficult for cases and contacts to maintain social distance measures and self-quarantine.
  • Burden of disease: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a burden of disease 2.3 times the rate of other Australians. This may increase the risk of severe disease from SARS-CoV-2.

Key response strategies

  • Shared decision-making and governance: Throughout all phases, COVID-19 response work should be collaborative to ensure local community leaders are central to the response. Further risk reduction strategies and public health responses should be co-developed, and co-designed, enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to contribute and fully participate in shared decision-making.
  • Social and cultural determinants of health: Public health strategies should be considered within the context of a holistic approach that prioritises the safety and well- being of individuals, families and communities while acknowledging the centrality of culture, and the addressing racism, intergenerational trauma and other social determinants of health.
  • Community control: The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) sector provides a comprehensive model of culturally safe care with structured support and governance systems. The network of ACCHS and peak bodies should be included in the response as a fundamental mechanism of engagement and
  • Appropriate communication: Messages should be strengths-based and encompass Aboriginal ways of living, including family-centred approaches during both prevention and control phases. They should address factors that may contribute to risk such as social determinants of health, including living arrangements and accessibility to
  • Flexible and responsive models of care: Consider flexible health service delivery and healthcare models (e.g. pandemic assessment centres, flexible ACCHSs clinic hours/location with additional staffing, and home visits). Consider employing the use of point of care influenza tests, where available, to help determine whether influenza is implicated in presentations in the
  • Isolation and quarantine: Families should feel empowered and be part of decision- making around quarantine. This can be achieved through exploring with families what quarantine looks like, working through how it might impact on the family and their way of living, and identifying ways around it. Family members will want to visit unwell people in hospital. It should be made clear that there are other ways to be with sick family members in hospital, maintain communication with families and communities in lieu of gatherings (e.g. staying socially connected through the internet and video calling).

 

 

 

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CoronaVirus #COVID19 : PM @ScottMorrisonMP says work is being done to prepare Indigenous communities for possible coronavirus outbreak

Given the level of chronic disease Aboriginal people suffer that makes them vulnerable.

People are concerned about the spread of this – but putting in place a whole series of measures that’s what we have to do.

Communication was essential towards educating communities about the risks posed by the virus – but cautioned against undue panic.

Everyone is better equipped in terms of information this time around and are better informed.

What’s important is we don’t take our feet off the pedal that we continue to make sure people are engaged.”

NACCHO Deputy Chief Executive Officer Dawn Casey told SBS News it is well known Indigenous people suffer 2.3 times the burden of disease compared with other populations

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has begun reaching out to community health services to implement possible emergency response plans. See full article Part 2 below

Read all previous Aboriginal Health and Corona Virus NACCHO Articles Here

And we also suffer a lot of chronic disease, which makes elderly patients more susceptible to any infection.

Testing is another worry — it takes at least a week if you live in a place like Balgo because the sample has to go to the nearest town, Broome, and then down to Perth.

She said she understood that one Pilbara community was restricting access by outsiders as an infection control measure, but Kimberley communities were open.

A number of workers in the Kimberley medical service’s five remote clinics servicing 10 communities had “self-selected” and isolated themselves for a time after returning from countries flagged as of concern.

We may end up with staffing problems in remote clinics if that escalates.”

Lorraine Anderson, medical director of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service, said remote clinics were already on the lookout for symptoms consistent with the virus.

Indigenous health organisations will gather in Canberra next Tuesday to discuss the threat the virus poses to communities with little ability to isolate patients.

Dr Anderson said it was difficult to isolate people in communities where housing was scarce. See Part 3 Below 

Part 1 :NSW Health and the AH&MRC will be hosting a webinar this Wednesday 4th March 2020 from 12-1pm.

This webinar will focus on coronavirus and influenza and what you and your service can do to protect your communities.

The following people will be speaking and there will be an opportunity to raise and discuss concerns and needs that you have:

  • Reuben Robinson, CEO, Galambila Aboriginal Health Service
  • Dr Kerry Chant, Chief Health Officer, NSW Health
  • Kylie Taylor and Kristy Crooks, Hunter New England Public Health team

The link to participate in the webinar is here:

 https://www.thestreamingguys.com.au/production/nsw-health-040320/

For further information please contact Megan Campbell, Centre for Aboriginal Health on megan.campbell2@health.nsw.gov.au

Part 2 The Federal Government is concerned about the potential for coronavirus to spread in remote Indigenous communities.

There have been no known COVID-19 cases among Indigenous Australians to date – but work is already being done to prepare the “vulnerability” of these populations against possible infection.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said authorities have reached out to these communities to increase their preparedness against an outbreak in

“We have been engaging with Indigenous leaders because in remote Indigenous communities if the virus were to get to those places, obviously there is a real vulnerability there,” he said.

“So we have been reaching out to those communities to work through how preparedness can be put in place.”

Some 10,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out here, with 34 people returning positive results including the first person-to-person transmissions in the country.

The University of Queensland’s Professor James Ward is one of those who has been working “hard” behind the scenes to prepare Indigenous communities.

The Federal Government will be distributing national guidelines over how to respond to COVID-19 if it appears in these populations.

Mr Ward told SBS News the remoteness, limited access to health services, vulnerability to disease and mobility of Indigenous communities could all make them more at risk.

“The longer this goes on … the greater the chances are of it reaching some of our most remote communities,” he said.

He said the potential for individuals to live in crowded living situations could also be a factor.

“We are working very hard behind the scenes to get our communities prepared,” he said.

“We’ve already seen in previous pandemics in 2009 – it affected the most remote of our communities.”

Research published following the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu outbreak showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11 per cent of all identified cases, 20 per cent of hospitalisations and 13 per cent of deaths.

This is despite them making up just three per cent of the population – meaning Indigenous people were 8.5 times more likely to be hospitalised.

Mr Ward said steps are being taken to make sure Indigenous communities are better prepared this time and ensure they are not deterred from accessing health services.

He said communication needed to involve families and communities in decision-making over quarantine measures and in providing local health services additional support as required.

“The response has to proportionate to the risks in individual communities around the country,” he said.

“How do we communicate this in a way that doesn’t create fear and panic and moves populations away unnecessarily from other communities to their own?”

Globally there have been more than 88,500 infections and at least 3000 deaths spanning some 70 countries and regions.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has begun reaching out to community health services to implement possible emergency response plans.

Part 3 The Australian Continued

A Pilbara miner is at the centre of a coronavirus scare, with resources workers and remote communities fearing they could be dangerously exposed.

The worker at the Fortescue Metals’ Christmas Creek mine has been placed in isolation after returning from Indonesia with flu-like symptoms.

“One of our team members has presented with symptoms that meet the Department of Health’s minimum criteria for testing for COVID-19,” FMG chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said. “We are implementing all necessary precautions in accordance with health guidelines.

“The employee has been isolated pending the outcome of the test, which we anticipate receiving within 48 hours.”

Clinics in Aboriginal communities are also concerned, particularly given relatively high rates of diabetes and heart and lung conditions.

Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that the federal government was talking to Aboriginal leaders “because in remote indigenous communities if the virus were to get to those places, obviously there was a real vulnerability there”.

“And so we’ve been reaching out to those communities to work through how preparedness can be put in place,” the Prime Minister said.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #COVID19 #CoronaVirus and #Influenza @NSWHealth and @ahmrc hosting webinar on what ACCHO’s can do to protect our communities.

We know ATSI people bore the brunt of the flu pandemic in 2009 and had largely been overlooked in planning undertaken to that point.

We are hopeful that the lessons have been learnt and that ATSI people are not only engaged in the planning but also in the governance/decision making on appropriate and proportionate responses to COVID-19.”

Menzies School of Health Research epidemiologist Andrew Ross said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians needed to be involved in outbreak response planning.

A spokeswoman for National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation said all its members and affiliates were “being provided with all the latest available information” and holding regular meetings.

From the Australian 3 March : See full report Part 2 Below

Part 1 :NSW Health and the AH&MRC will be hosting a webinar this Wednesday 4th March 2020 from 12-1pm.

This webinar will focus on coronavirus and influenza and what you and your service can do to protect your communities.

The following people will be speaking and there will be an opportunity to raise and discuss concerns and needs that you have:

  • Reuben Robinson, CEO, Galambila Aboriginal Health Service
  • Dr Kerry Chant, Chief Health Officer, NSW Health
  • Kylie Taylor and Kristy Crooks, Hunter New England Public Health team

The link to participate in the webinar is here:

 https://www.thestreamingguys.com.au/production/nsw-health-040320/

For further information please contact Megan Campbell, Centre for Aboriginal Health on megan.campbell2@health.nsw.gov.au

Read previous NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Corona Virus articles here

Part 2 : Fears are growing that Indigenous people who “bore the brunt” of the 2009 swine flu pandemic could be hit again if novel coronavirus spreads uncontrollably in Australia.

Research published in the wake of the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu outbreak showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11 per cent of all identified cases, 20 per cent of hospitalisations and 13 per cent of deaths, despite being just 3 per cent of the population. ATSI people were 8.5 times more likely to be hospitalised.

Although there have been no known cases of COVID-19 among the indigenous community to date, Australia on Monday recorded its first person-to-person transmission. Indigenous people and remote community residents have been designated high-risk due to their generally poorer health and greater disadvantage compared to mainstream Australians.

Scott McConnell, an independent MLA representing a vast seat stretching from near Alice Springs to the Top End coastline, said he had been inundated with calls from constituents worried about the potentially-deadly virus striking their families.

“They are really concerned about what they are hearing in the media, and they are concerned that they are not hearing from the government or indeed the community-controlled health sector,” Mr McConnell said.

“These are places where everyone goes to the same store and shares bathrooms, and there are poor levels of hygiene anyway. Everyone is concerned that if coronavirus does get into their communities, they don’t know what to do.”

The majority of indigenous Australians live in coastal regions, often within reach of major hospitals. However, the most disadvantaged people usually inhabit remote communities spread throughout northern and inland areas of the continent.

The federal government’s COVID-19 response plan talks about tailoring strategies to help at-risk groups, including indigenous people and remote community residents but gives little detail about what those strategies might be.

Research on the swine flu pandemic published in 2015 called for ATSI people to be “prioritised” in future planning.

Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said people in her state could “feel confident that local health authorities are leaving no stone unturned in keeping them safe from novel coronavirus”.

She did not respond to questions about what if anything was being done to prepare and protect the indigenous community in particular.

Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles said her government was “paying particular attention to vulnerable Territorians such as those in remote communities due to the high levels of chronic illness” but did not explain how.

A spokeswoman for WA Health Minister Roger Crook did not answer to questions, nor did another for the federal Health Department.

A spokeswoman for National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation said all its members and affiliates were “being provided with all the latest available information” and holding regular meetings.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NovelCoronavirus Resources Fact Sheets Alert : @healthgovau Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (the #COVID19 Plan)

The Australian Government’s Chief Medical Officer held a national teleconference yesterday to provide details on the national response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Chief Medical Officer and state and territory Chief Medical Officers have been meeting and teleconferencing daily for several weeks since the outbreak in China.

They have agreed on the Response Plan to guide the health sector response within Australia.

The link to the Response Plan is:

Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (the COVID-19 Plan)

The Response Plan is a living document and will be updated as required.

In addition, the Australian Government Department of Health website Coronavirus (COVID-19) includes a collection of resources including fact sheets for the general public, health professionals and industry about COVID-19.

A collection of resources for health professionals, including pathology providers and healthcare managers, about coronavirus (COVID-19).

You are encouraged to subscribe to the page to remain informed and ensure you have the latest information.

The information is updated daily.

Any urgent enquiries can be directed to the Department of Health’s National Incident Room via health.ops@health.gov.au.