A consumer recently described the challenge facing Queensland Health as it pivoted to face a pandemic on a scale not previously experienced during the past 100 years, as like expecting “a massive ship to turn on a dime.”

Indeed, at Health Consumers Queensland we have never seen the health system work this hard and this collaboratively to care for its consumers. Bureaucracy and inflexibility have given way to connectedness, transparency and agility as different departments, HHSs and other health sectors (private and community), community controlled health organisations and NGOs share resources, information and expertise to prepare staff and consumers if the curve could not be controlled.

Around the world we have seen how public health systems have been overwhelmed by the numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 who have required life-saving care. As tough restrictions were imposed across Australia at the end of March, it looked as if we would be following in their wake. However, as the past week has demonstrated, we are instead recording fewer and fewer positive cases.

Now Australia finds itself in a unique position worldwide. Our health systems, including Queensland Health, must turn on their axes once more and re-calibrate as they seek to navigate a ‘’new normal” where a constant state of readiness for COVID-19 can co-exist alongside a reinstatement of some regular health care services including some elective surgery.

Yet just because Queensland Health is able to open up elective surgery right now does not mean it won’t have to suspend it again. We know that this virus is unpredictable and ever-changing and we cannot afford to be complacent.

It will be Queensland Health’s ability to co-design sensitive clinical responses and communication mechanisms with consumers and carers which will help its staff and consumers cope with this level of uncertainty and change, and maintain confidence in its decisions and actions.

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