Supporting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community during the pandemic

(Southern Health News, Autumn 2020)

COVID-19 created a series of unique challenges for SALHN in supporting the southern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community at the height of the pandemic.

In line with SALHN’s commitment to enhance the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, SALHN responded by introducing a series of culturally appropriate emergency management strategies to support the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These strategies have been targeted to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have access to the resources they need to look after their health and reduce the negative impact associated with isolation, and reduced access to resources, services and supports.

 Initiatives introduced included:

  • Aboriginal Health Services at Noarlunga and Clovelly Park continued to provide health and wellbeing services through telephone and telemedicine.
  • Aboriginal Family Clinic GPs provided social and emotional support through wellbeing checks over the phone; as well as establishing a telehealth assessment of regular clients for the purpose of fulfilling Centrelink requirements and uploading Centrelink forms.
  • Culturally appropriate resources and education packages for caring for the dying and death that took into consideration limitations imposed by COVID-19.
  • Outreach to clients through home visits to reduce social isolation resulting from COVID-19 government rules and advice. Supporting families to navigate and link to resources to address their needs, including access to food and medication, and resources to manage holistic health and wellbeing.
  • Prioritising more than 300 clients with chronic conditions and children under 5 years old for immunisations, including Pneumococcal vaccines and Influenza.
  • Ensuring access to social supports and follow up for people when they leave hospital.
  • Education about COVID-19. > Promotion and support of culturally appropriate infection control, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene messaging and resources.
  • Ensuring the community was aware of the process for seeking care for suspected COVID-19 cases - where to go, what to do.
  • Guidelines for funerals during the coronavirus pandemic for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.