The news that we have flattened the curve in Queensland and are not experiencing the anticipated spike in infections and rise in hospital and ICU admissions, is welcome indeed. However, consumers and carers are now facing a further healthcare challenge: grappling with the impact of the lockdown on their ongoing healthcare needs.
Queensland Health is reminding people that hospitals and services are still ‘open’ and regular appointments can be kept. Yet we have heard some people are putting off their routine health care.
This week we asked members of our Consumer Advisory Group, consumer members of the Health Consumer Collaborative of Queensland, the COVID-19 Community of Interest and our followers on Facebook whether they had delayed any of their regular healthcare, if it was clear to them what care is continuing and what is being postponed, and how has this been communicated?
The key issues and concerns which emerged during the conversations included:
- Difficulty in accessing care when in self-isolation.
- Risk of inadvertently causing infection.
- What is open and what is not.
- Too much of a risk to go for routine tests including blood tests or keep appointments with specialists.
- Vulnerable people have been advised to expect to remain in isolation until next year and planned surgeries have been postponed but what about waiting lists after this time.
- The health consequences of waiting and postponing.
- Deciding to put off new knees and hips and get by on steroid injections for the next 12 months.
- Confusion and concern around cancellation of ante-natal classes for new parents-to-be.
- Lack of communication around closure of transplant centres and the impact of this decision on people’s health and these precious resources.
- How do we monitor symptoms and know when to go to hospital.
- There have been no letters or phonecalls despite surgery needing to be done within three months
- The sense of being just left hanging.
- Inconsistencies in information are causing fear and particularly those of mature ages and with co-morbidities.
- Communication methods need to address all levels of health literacy.
- The system is not designed for particular groups or particular conditions. It is not reaching us at a place-based level.