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Is our health system looking after Indigenous people with disability?

28 April 2020 at 5:19 pm
Maggie Coggan
Health leaders hope new principles will inform access to intensive care

Maggie Coggan | 28 April 2020 at 5:19 pm


Is our health system looking after Indigenous people with disability?
28 April 2020 at 5:19 pm

Health leaders hope new principles will inform access to intensive care

As talks of easing lockdown restrictions begin, experts fear Aboriginal Australians with disability will be overlooked and “triaged out of the health system”.    

With reports from countries such as America finding that marginalised people are missing out on emergency health care, Damian Griffis, CEO of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN), told Pro Bono News he feared the same would happen to Aboriginal people.  

“First Peoples with disability, who are already experiencing higher levels of disadvantage and are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, are at risk of being triaged out of the health system or being provided with inadequate support,” Griffis said. 

It has prompted the organisation, in partnership with Sydney Health Law and the Disability Innovation Institute UNSW, to release guidelines on providing ethical health care for Indigenous people with disability. 

The points of action put First Peoples with a disability in a position where they can speak to decision-makers and help them provide appropriate responses to the pandemic.

The recommendations include recognising that disability care is a critical health service for Indigenous people and should be funded as such, including Indigenous people in decision-making processes regarding healthcare during the pandemic, helping restore trust in healthcare systems, and providing culturally appropriate services.     

Griffis said that while Australian health services were dealing with the pandemic in a fair way, putting into place the recommendations would make sure it stayed that way. 

“It looks as though we are on the right track, but nonetheless these principles should inform access to intensive care,” he said. 

He also said that with such a big focus on healthcare at the moment, it was a good opportunity to review the entire healthcare experience for Indigenous people with disability, beyond the pandemic. 

“A lot of Indigenous people with disabilities face race discrimination, disability discrimination or an intersection of both,” Griffis said.  

“And unfortunately we have a situation where people are very reluctant to engage in the health system because they might have well-founded fears around how they might be treated.”  

Find a full list of the recommendations here.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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