Statement of support for priority access to PPE for disability support workers
From the Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce
A lack of access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, is putting people with disability, their support workers and the wider community at risk.
It is essential the Federal and Victorian Government recognise people with disability as a vulnerable group for COVID-19 and provide their support workers with priority access to adequate PPE.
Like many others, I read with dismay about the nurse, who was treating a man who has since tested positive for COVID-19, who saw many other vulnerable people before she was told of his test results.
In this case, she said she had only been provided with gloves and was told to keep working until the patient’s test results came in.
In many situations it is impossible for disability support workers to practice social distancing given the type of intimate care tasks that they are required to do. Disability support workers also often assist multiple clients in a group home or the community, which increases the risk of contagion.
For these reasons, it is essential these people are provided with priority access to PPE, lest they unwittingly pass the infection on to a client with underlying health conditions, who may be at greater risk of serious complications from the infection, including death.
It is extremely difficult for disability support workers and their employers to personally source PPE equipment. Without adequate protection, disability support workers will be unable to work, leaving many people with disability without the assistance they need to get out of bed, shower, get dressed, eat and receive medication they need. In these cases, people with disability will be forced into an already over-stretched hospital system.
The Federal Government has recognized the increased risks and vulnerabilities to people in hospitals and Residential Aged Care Facilities but has seemingly ignored the increased vulnerabilities of people with disability to COVID 19. I urgently call on both the Federal and Victorian Government to recognise people with disability as a vulnerable group for COVID-19, and put in place a specific coordinated plan for them, similar to what has already occurred for other vulnerable groups.
I will continue to advocate for such a plan to be put in place.