#DontWaitMate is a new national health campaign launched by the Continuity of Care Collaboration – to encourage Australians to re-engage with healthcare, and to not delay vital visits to healthcare providers that are needed to manage chronic conditions or to address new symptoms.
“Across the board, from GP visits, to pathology, to screening, to acute care presentations, we have seen a significant drop-off in Australians taking care of their health,” said Medicines Australia CEO, Elizabeth de Somer.
“And while this is understandable due to COVID-19, it could lead to long-term health consequences for the patient and the community.”
Partnering in the Collaboration, Living Positive Victoria (LPV), addresses some key concerns and challenges faced by the communities of people living with HIV in Victoria with regard to re-engaging with healthcare.
LPV CEO, Richard Keane, who presented as part of this webinar where various Collaboration members shared lessons learnt, imparted a key community message that ‘engaging in care IS self-care’.
He shared how Living Positive Victoria was using novel approaches to address some barriers to healthcare for its members of people living with HIV in Victoria (summarised below).
About the Continuity of Care Collaboration
The Continuity of Care Collaboration are a unique communication collaboration of over 30 Australian peak bodies, industry and healthcare organisations responding to a trend that has continued in 2020 reflecting lowered pathology testing rates across Australia (and currently down by 25 per cent in Victoria).
Moreover, a consumer survey conducted by the Collaboration found that the most common reasons that people were delaying their regular doctor visits for existing chronic conditions – and/or putting off seeing their doctor to get a test, investigation, or immunisation – are due to fears of contracting COVID-19 or burdening the health system.
Richard Keane: ‘Re-engaging with healthcare’
In a webinar presentation to the Collaboration, Living Positive Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Richard Keane highlights:
- “One of the greatest challenges to continuity of care is engaging with marginalised communities who may not have access to facilities required to engage easily with e-health and video calling.”
- “The re-engagement of our Peer Navigation Program is our top priority [at Living Positive Victoria] as some people have fallen out-of-care. Around 10% of people who are newly diagnosed HIV have yet to commence early treatment uptake.”
- “We’re trying to extend that sense of agency – based in a long history of regular engagement in healthcare across the lifetime of our experience of living with HIV”.
Living Positive Victoria has been ensuring community connectedness with its members – particularly during the months of restricted lockdowns with regular letters coming directly from the CEO.
- “Like most community-based organisations, communications and IT have become the wheelhouse of our COVID-19 response and we have shifted resources to this area of our business.”
- “Sharing information via bi-weekly letters to our members have come with the provision of links to respected sources, rather than trying to duplicate messaging, and potentially overwhelming people with information overload.”
Mr Keane presents some of his organisation’s areas of focus and the novel approaches to addressing barriers to healthcare:
- “[There have been] agreements with DHHS (Victorian Department of Health and Human Services) to shift some resources into a special fund for one-off $200 payment for travellers stranded in Australia, including international students and visa holders who have fallen outside of the social welfare net.”
- “[In 2020] women have been disproportionately affected. They will often use their resources for [their own] health on others they care for, so a special emphasis on women maintaining their HIV and broader healthcare has been key.”
- “[There is also] a reminder of the first pandemic reflecting on the over 7,000 lives that were lost to AIDS in Australia and the psycho-social impacts on older and pre-affective antiretroviral treatment (AART) PLHIV living through a second pandemic in their lifetime.” Mr Keane makes mention of the appointment of an ‘Elder Peer Advocate’ position has recently been filled – allowing for 1-on-1 activities to be directed to this cohort.