Face masks: What more do consumers need to know

Recently the Chief Health Officer confirmed that Queenslanders should wear face masks when we can’t socially distance.  However, wearing face masks continues to be a topic of discussion and confusion amongst consumers.

Eleven consumers from Health Consumers Queensland’s COVID-19 Community of Interest joined Jordan Medlock from the Strategic Communications Branch’s Project Team to explore the issues which are causing concern and identify additional information which would enable consumers to make confident and informed choices about mask wearing as part of their personal and collective COVID-19 protection strategy.

Read the full issues paper here >

A COVID-19 vaccine: Health consumers’ views

Although a vaccine for COVID-19 is not yet available, it’s high on the news agenda this week and keenly anticipated.

According to peer-reviewed research published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal, we need up to 80% vaccination to ensure herd immunity.  Yet the results of an Australian study in April showed that 14% of Australian adults would reject or were unsure about having a COVID vaccine. It’s also likely that some people will be ineligible for the vaccine for medical reasons.

This week Health Consumers Queensland asked health consumers from its COVID-19 Community of Interest:

  • How could the population be encouraged to be vaccinated?
  • What would you need to know before deciding whether or not to get a vaccination?
  • What would motivate or stop you from getting one?

Read the full issues paper here >

Consumer engagement in Victoria and NSW: Lessons learned during COVID-19

Here in Queensland, Health Consumers Queensland is uniquely positioned to amplify the consumer voice. We are fortunate to work with a Government, health department and health services that welcome consumer engagement and values the consumer voice.  Importantly, this commitment is matched by action, not just lip service, with consumer/HCQ participation facilitated at almost every level of decision making in health, and our organization being funded to pivot our work to support the response to COVID-19.

We invited the CEOs of our equivalent state health consumer peaks, Danny Vadasz, CEO of Health Issues Centre in Victoria and Anthony Brown from Health Consumers NSW to join a conversation with our CEO Melissa Fox, to share their perspectives on their Government and Health Departments’ engagement with consumers during COVID-19 at our regular Consumer Conversation session on Monday, 10 August 2020.

The views shared by Danny and Anthony made for “a sobering session” and prompted key questions around:

  1. Valuing consumer engagement at every level.
  2. Recognising that a consumer’s lived experience IS data.
  3.  How to be responsive to communities.

> Read the issues paper here.

Encouraging COVID-19 testing throughout Queensland

Testing remains one of Queensland’s best defences against a sustained outbreak of COVID19.   A Consumer Conversation on Tuesday 28 July 2020 focused on the top barriers to testing, how the process can be made easier and what the key messages are that would motivate people to get a COVID-19 test. 

Fear, uncertainty, confusion, mis-interpretation of information and complacency are currently the over-arching barriers to testing across the state.  Consumers are looking for a clear and unambiguous testing pathway which is convenient, supportive, nuanced and needs-focused.

Read the issues paper

Consumer experiences of health services as COVID-19 restrictions ease

In late April 2020, Health Consumers Queensland asked consumers about their experiences of healthcare during the very first easing of the COVID-19 lockdown. Procedures that had been delayed or cancelled were restarting, but consumers shared that they were unsure about accessing care safely. Many reported feeling uncertain and confused about when, if and how they could have their healthcare needs met.

Ten weeks later in Queensland, restrictions have eased significantly and healthcare services are beginning to return to almost full operation. At the same time, parts of Victoria have gone back into lockdown and parts of NSW are seeing an increase in positive testing results, with community spread in both states. Against these opposing backgrounds, Health Consumers Queensland asked 28 consumers and consumers representatives from our COVID-19 Community of Interest, Health Consumers Queensland’s Consumer Advisory Group, the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland, Primary Health Networks and Statewide Clinical Networks steering committees about their current experiences of health care.
Consumers were asked:

  1. If you were waiting for treatment that was delayed due to the pandemic, have you received updates on when that treatment will be available to you?
  2. Who provided you with care during the pandemic?
  3. Are you getting the information now that you need to support you, such as information about how your health service is being kept COVID-19 safe, or alternative ways of receiving care?
  4. Every Hospital and Health Service is responsible for developing their own plan to re-open services. Have you been involved as a consumer rep in these plans for your local HHS?

Read the Issues Paper >

Looking Back: How effective has the Queensland COVID-19 response been?

We asked consumers for their reaction to the COVID-19 response from Queensland Health, and from us, Health Consumers Queensland. We were very pleased to hear that consumers were impressed with Queensland Health’s response. Particularly compared to other states, consumers felt that Queensland Health has done very well to involve consumers to such a high degree, to listen and act on their views and concerns. Suggestions for improvement included greater attention to the needs of vulnerable groups, great reach into the regions, and better communication.

Consumers were overwhelmingly positive about the COVID-19 response from Health Consumers Queensland, with many feeling that the COVID-19 Community of Interest gave consumers the opportunity to have their voices heard, and gave them the information they needed to support themselves, their families and their communities. More importantly, consumers saw the influence they had on Queensland Health and were mindful of how unique that is in Australia.

Read the Issues Paper >

A mental health system for everyone: Integrated, strong and tailored to our individual needs and circumstances

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on mental health service provision in Queensland like never before, as people grapple with prolonged social isolation, fear and uncertainty, unemployment, restricted access to health care, home-schooling, withdrawal of support and services, with many reporting feeling forgotten by the government and its pandemic responses.

Currently Queensland Health provides mostly acute mental health care services but some consumers consider the scale of the mental health crisis facing the public health system is “another pandemic in itself”.

Consumers told us that a prescriptive, inflexible and reactive approach to mental health care is not working – or helping. They want tailored, individualised care and communication and a system which prioritises and values preventative mental health care measures.

Ultimately, their vision is for a strong, integrated mental health system for everyone which is well-funded, resourced and staffed by skilled and well-trained professionals.

Read the Issues Paper on the Mental Health System >

COVID-19 Testing: Straightforward, or difficult to access?

The message from Queensland Health is that we need more people tested for COVID-19, but consumer continue to be unclear about eligibility for testing, what testing entails, and what measures need to be taken either side of having a test. Many are reluctant to seek out testing if they are only showing mild symptoms, with the thought of isolation another disincentive.

While the Queensland Health COVID-19 site was given the thumbs-up by many as a good source of fact, inconsistencies between local and state information is compounding uncertainty on what to do. Most agreed that we should look to the tried and true strategies used during natural disasters, with regular centralized government messaging and local radio and news broadcasts nominated as the key vehicles for getting information out to the public.

Read the Issues Paper >