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FPHW is setting the standard for COVID-19 response for Victorian Aboriginal people

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing (FPHW) has rolled out their long-planned response to COVID-19 and are setting the standard for care of Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the pandemic.

As part of their commitment to provide the best possible primary care to Aboriginal people, First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing developed a COVID-19 pandemic plan in early February to prepare for the anticipated impact on the Aboriginal community in Melbourne, where they run two clinics. FPHW stocked up on equipment and drugs in preparation for the outbreak in Australia and their team has worked long hours over the last three weeks to implement their detailed response plan.

To reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission, FPHW have transformed their entire service from face to face primary care to a four-tier service delivery model. They have moved to phone consultations where possible, have set up car park COVID-19 testing clinics and as of this week, received a stock of 2020 flu vaccines and have started car park vaccine clinics too. In addition, First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing are seeing patients face to face with appropriate protective equipment and only where deemed absolutely necessary after a phone consultation with a doctor.

Personalised care plans have been developed for every high-risk patient to ensure continuity of care and safety during this time and all of these patients have been called for telephone consults. These patients have also been given priority access to flu vaccines. The entire Medical Administration staff have been set up to work remotely and some staff have gone home to country and are working from rural locations - some even interstate. Morning and evening team huddles are continuing via video conference.

CEO Karinda Taylor said, “Response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive and as the only Aboriginal health service in Melbourne conducting COVID-19 testing, we have had a big influx of new patients for virus testing, but also for vaccines, mental health concerns and all of the usual and often complex medical needs. We’ve also had considerable interest from organisations around the country starting to take on our model.”

Protective equipment remains a big issue, with the service now relying on donations of hand sanitiser and the team having just managed to have sourced gowns from food industry suppliers. In addition, swabs to do COVID-19 testing are also running low. Funding is now rapidly becoming an issue as First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing existed on minimal government support prior to the pandemic. Since they implemented their response, they have seen a huge surge in patient numbers and costs also increasing rapidly. The limited number of staff are working long hours to maintain the service, but without proper resourcing First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing are worried that care for the Aboriginal community will begin to suffer.

Summary of First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing response plan 1. Telehealth consults set up with medical administration staff working from home 2. Car park COVID-19 test clinics established 3. Car park flu vaccine clinics to prevent co-infection with influenza and corona viruses 4. Telephone triage for follow up face to face consultations where absolutely necessary 5. Identification of all high-risk patients and individualised safety and care plans developed and communicated 6. Coordination of script and medication delivery to ensure continuity of care and less exposure risk for vulnerable patients 7. Mental health and anxiety related consultations continuing remotely – including clinical psychology and psychiatry 8. Advanced end of life care planning in case of hospital and palliative care overwhelm 9. Public health messaging through a significant increase in social media 10. “At Home Health Checks” are being rolled out to keep on top of chronic disease management during social isolation with an emphasis on smoking cessation

For media enquires: Karinda Taylor Chief Executive Officer 0477 622 210