COVID-19 response – Advocate Update: April 16, 2020

As the COVID-19 emergency response continues I am hearing from many people in our communities about the impacts of social distancing and the changes being made at work and at home to help stop the spread of the virus.

I am regularly updating the Victorian Minister for Health and the Victorian Chief Health Officer about how COVID-19 is impacting Latrobe communities and thank you for continuing to share with me your suggestions and experiences as we work our way through so many changes.

What am I hearing.

This week I have continued to hear from community members and representatives from industry and business.

I have heard that people are experiencing a sense of loss. Loss of their independence and a loss of closeness to their family and friends. Many are feeling hemmed in and struggling to establish a new routine. They want to keep going, physically and mentally but for some there is a sense of being invisible.

Business owners are experiencing increased anxiety and financial stress as they come to terms with each new change and what seems to be a never-ending stream of media stories. They remain unsure about how to protect their customers and staff and worry about what the future will look like.

Health professionals are expressing concern that people appear to be putting off going to their doctor or to the emergency department when they are unwell. Not seeking treatment for ongoing health issues could lead to longer term complications and people need to be encouraged to look after their health through this emergency.

Concern has also been raised about first year international students at University, many of them living alone for the first time and now even further isolated from families and friends.

This week too, I have started to hear that workplaces are worried about the stigma and increased judgement that comes with an increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 and how this is impacting their employees.

Innovations I am seeing.

COVID-19 is requiring governments and communities to adapt and design new ways of responding to emergencies. Our health system and governments are thinking and working in different ways.

Communities are already accessing local doctors and mental health supports via bulk billed telehealth services.

Local leaders are experiencing greater levels of collaboration. Although there is significant change and uncertainty, there is a common goal to protect the health and wellbeing of communities.

There is growing interest in the basics of living healthy and well and an increased awareness of the importance of exercise and I’m seeing many examples of cooking healthy meals at home.

I am sharing what I am hearing.

I am continuing to share my insights and suggestions with the Victorian Minister for Health and the Chief Health Officer and in my most recent update I have highlighted my interest in the following;

• There are opportunities to take a regional approach to communicating the global messages out there, how we can we ensure that those messages are reaching everyone?

• We need to ensure that we don’t create further health inequities as we support people in communities to change their behaviours. In encouraging people to protect themselves and others how do we avoid this possible consequence?

• How can we ensure that people who were already experiencing social isolation can continue to receive supports and services during this emergency?

I’m here to listen and to help our health system and governments to understand and respond to the needs of communities in Latrobe. This work continues as we respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

Please share your suggestions and experiences with me by contacting me on 1800 319 255, email or follow us on Facebook @LHAdvocate and Twitter. For more information you can go to our website

This week, as always, be kind, be patient and stay safe.