SUBJECT: Coronavirus, CDP, Remote Communities
LIZ TREVASKIS, HOST : On ABC Radio Darwin and the Northern Territory. Do you feel as though the advice you’re getting at the moment is clear on how you should be responding to COVID-19. The Federal Government has copped a bit of flak for not necessarily being clear enough and there might be circumstances here in the Northern Territory that mean we do need to take a different approach. Warren Snowdon is the Federal Labor Member for Lingiari which takes in the entire Territory outside of Darwin and Palmerston. He’s also the former Minister for Indigenous Health which is a very pertinent issue in the Territory at the moment.
HON WARREN SNOWDON, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, MEMBER FOR LINGIARI: Good afternoon.
TREVASKIS: Good afternoon. How are you?
SNOWDON: I’m doing all right.
TREVASKIS: How are you at the moment.
SNOWDON: Well you know I’ve come to Melbourne to ostensibly to address the conference tomorrow afternoon but I’ve as a result of advice I’ve received this morning I’ve decided I’m not going to do it. I’ll go back home and do it both by video link. I’ve had a number of meetings in Melbourne this morning about the virus and it seems to me that the most prudent thing to do is try and limit contact with relatively large numbers of people. And to me having a conference in a conference setting that doesn’t seem to me to be very smart ideas I’m not going to go.
TREVASKIS: I feel like we’ve been reassured over the last week or so that plans are in place to protect remote and vulnerable populations. We haven’t seen many details about what that actually means and what that looks like. Are you confident that the Federal and Territory Governments do have a good enough plan in place to make sure that the virus doesn’t reach our remote vulnerable Territorians.
SNOWDON: I think that there’s certainly measures which have been taken and in planning which will help in that regard Absolutely. But I think as we know this is a very rapidly evolving set of scenarios and the advice which is being given around trying to isolate communities make sure there’s limited travel to communities, only essential travel to be allowed. These I see very important advice and making sure that the there’s some logistical support to the health services and aged care services in remote communities that’s got to be an absolute priority.
And it seems to me if we’re following the advice of the experts and we do what they say then I think we could limit the impact of this virus on the Northern Territory we’ve still only got one confirmed case. We want to keep it that way but to get in the inevitable event that it was more than one case there’s the potential community spread, we have to be very well positioned to safeguard as you point out the most vulnerable including those who live in remote communities many of whom live in overcrowded situations where there are multiple morbidity to those chronic disease etc.
So we need to be addressing those issues and making sure they’ve got the support that’s required as well as for the aged person to live in very remote places. Now I know a lot of things going on about that in the aged care sector and by government I know the Northern Territory Government has both recently set up a new committee which involves and AMSAMT, APONT, the Land Councils and others to continue to develop their planning for remote communities that I think is essential.
TREVASKIS: Are you clear on what would happen at the moment if a case of COVID-19 was detected in a remote community as you say self isolation not really a possibility. Resources are limited and stretched but would patients need to. Would someone need to be evacuated from the community to Alice Springs or Darwin for example.
SNOWDON: I think most likely absolutely in the first is good because if there’s someone with the virus and it’s confirmed then you’d want to isolate that person from the rest of the community very very rapidly and relocation might be the only option unless they’re somewhere reasonably they can be relocated and isolated and properly treated because that’s the other element of this isolating itself with the virus is one thing. Having given being given appropriate medical care and potentially critical care is the other so give make sure they’ve got access to the proper medical care and treatment has got to be first priority and then making sure simultaneously that they’re isolated from the rest of the community that community that they’re appropriate testing given to those who might have been around that to make sure they don’t have the virus.
TREVASKIS: Do you think enough is being done to inform people in remote communities in language as well about the current status of the pandemic and how those communities are going to be protected because I can imagine it would be a very isolating feeling to hear that even if it’s for people’s own protection that you know the essentially the borders to remote parts of the Territory are going to be closed off.
SNOWDON: But remember that the leadership and many of these communities are making those decisions themselves and I think that’s really very important. That means they’re acknowledging the urgency and the priority no need to give to the health of their communities. We also know that the Aboriginal Medical Services very well link together. And I’ve got very good resources in terms of human resource to be able to provide messaging which is appropriate. And I know that there is work being done both of those at a national level and a Territory level to make sure that the appropriate measures are in language and that they are properly directly above the bottom line here is that there is local leadership we need to listen to we need to be informed by and we need to be involved with and that requires making sure that we acknowledge that the best people to talk about the health care in these remote communities are the health care providers whether they’re Aboriginal medical services or the Northern Territory Dept of Health about providing services currently. They are the people on the ground are the people we should be talking to the people we should be making sure we’ve got the equipment they need to protect themselves at the same time as they’re protecting their communities. So the protective equipment needs to be ensured that we’ve got that available to people in remote locations but especially health staff so that we can make sure that they if there is a an outbreak of this virus in one of these communities that they can be contained and that the health workers themselves are protected from it.
SNOWDON: I think there is one element though I think that I should comment on. There will be potentially a time when people for example welfare recipients who are on CDP will not be able to maintain their obligations of CDP. We need to make sure they neither they or the CDP providers are penalised by not being able to undertake the activities they might otherwise be required to do. And that needs to happen now. And so I know that AMSANT has written to the federal government requesting this.
I think it’s very urgent that advice be given by the federal government that people will not be penalised as a result of being isolated and taking measures to isolate themselves or their communities so that they can’t participate in CDP activities. They won’t be penalized financially as a result of that and nor should the city be providers being punished financially penalised by people not meeting your obligations under CDP. These things are vitally important because if we don’t then people will not be able to guarantee their own food security let alone anything else and that is fundamentally important. We want to help your community.
TREVASKIS: Federal Member for Lingiari there and the former Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon. He pretty pertinent points there How CDP participants and welfare recipients will be managed in the future. He also talked about the supply of personal protective equipment in remote communities that needs to be insured for health staff.