Within days of the lockdown in South East Queensland in July 2021 following the first outbreak of the Delta variant, Cairns and Yarrabah also went into lockdown. Having just hosted a Consumer Conversation to hear from consumers across the State during the lockdown in the south-eastern corner, HCQ reached out to consumers and carers from our network in the Far North to find out whether their particular concerns and experiences were reflected in the recommended list of actions in our situation report..  

One carer representative from our network, Deb Robins, took the time to describe her experience of accompanying her husband to Brisbane for hospital treatment during this time. In particular, she highlighted the difficulties people are facing in getting reliable information on discharge when they need care far from home and the need for discharge staff to be fully informed so they can give the correct advice to patients and their families.

Read their story here:

My husband and I have been in North Brisbane for the past month and arrived home just as the lockdown in Cairns was lifted. I had escorted him to Brisbane with some trepidation, not being a medical escort, but he was discharged to travel independently and wanted my support.  He was being monitored and assessed initially for heart valve surgery.  The weeks in Brisbane were filled with innumerable daily tests – some quite invasive. He was also treated medically to improve his overall weak physical condition and boost his heart/lung function to a point where he could survive surgery – which he didn’t reach by the time he was discharged.

Therefore, I was locked down for a handful of days, twice, in my little motel room with kettle, toaster, microwave and walking distance from both his hospitals in Brisbane.  I’m certain the Olympics and of course the variety of programs on the ABC and SBS channels helped, but I exercised 1-2 hours daily, read, crafted, but mostly networked for my health roles.  In the private hospital there were many days when laundry drop off at the hospital entrance was the only visitation allowed.  Of course we could message on the phone after a day of tests, so we understood the greater good of these restrictions. The surgeon assessing him very kindly arranged an exemption for me to attend his rooms which were within the hospital, to help my husband discuss his options and prognosis – that’s when we opted  to be re-assessed for more options with the heart transplant team working out of the public system.

I seemed to be exempted to visit more when my husband was admitted in the public system and was grateful for those two hour sessions most days. The public hospital didn’t require temperature checks but issued a new mask and checked the SMS exemption.   I believe the intervention of the social worker in the public hospital (ours was just for heart patients like my husband) made the difference there.   I’m not saying anyone should be exempt but was grateful, being so far from our rural (and at the time virus free area), isolating and complying with essential shopping, checking-in and mask wearing was taken into consideration.  Thus, a social worker is definitely a good translator/advocate between a patient’s next of kin and the administration in my opinion.

I was surprised when we knew we would be released and Brisbane was still in lock-down, that the local police couldn’t advise me about travelling home to Cairns.  I presumed that they are the ones who are checking on travellers and issuing fines if a person was more than 10kms from their home etc, so I really thought they should know.  They said they didn’t and told me to clarify from the Qld Health Covid hotline webpage – the information seemed to indicate we could travel directly home and self-isolate there for as long as the hotspot area, where we had been, was in lockdown.  I waited to speak to an actual person (only about 20mins) who checked with someone else, that indeed I had interpreted it correctly so we would be able to leave for home before the lockdown was lifted, when my husband was discharged.