In March the Premier declared a State of Emergency for Victoria in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Since then people in Latrobe have shown resilience and supported each other as we face this significant threat to our health, community and economy.
Thanks to the cooperation and discipline of people in Latrobe maintaining good hygiene and physical distancing, our health services have been afforded the time to prepare for the impact of COVID-19. I am reassured by the extensive work that has occurred within our health services and admire the commitment of everyone that is working together to protect and serve our community.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 numbers have risen significantly in Melbourne and are creeping up here in Latrobe. The Premier has recently declared a State of Disaster and regional Victoria is now experiencing a return to Stage 3 restrictions.
Understandably, people in Latrobe are feeling worried and frustrated. As the Latrobe Health Advocate, I am here to listen and to understand how this pandemic is impacting local communities. It is my job to ensure that health services and governments are aware of this impact so that they can continue to be responsive to the needs of people in Latrobe.
My office, like many workplaces right now, is operating remotely. However, people in the community can continue to share their views and experiences with me and I will continue to provide this feedback to the Victorian Government and local services to ensure that the needs of our community are being met at this difficult time.
I am in regular contact with the Chief Health Officer, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Latrobe Regional Hospital, Latrobe Community Health Service, Latrobe City Council, Gippsland Primary Health Network and the Latrobe Health Assembly. Part of my role is to support these organisations to work together and to consider how things could be done differently and identify any gaps in services that need to be addressed in order to meet the needs of local communities.
Over the past six months I have seen what can be achieved when Gippsland Primary Health Network, Latrobe Regional Hospital and Latrobe Community Health Service work closely together to design a local system and coordinated approach to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Like any system, there will always be things that can be improved, and it is reassuring to see that our services are demonstrating a willingness and ability to quickly change the way things are being done if required.
I am pleased to see the establishment of a Latrobe City COVID-19 helpline. I have met with some of the staff involved in this work and am reassured by their commitment to spending time on the phone to listen to how people in the community are feeling and to answer the many questions that are being asked. As the Advocate, I will stay in contact with this local team of helpline staff to identify some of the systems challenges and barriers from their perspective with a view to then provide this feedback directly to government.
The Victorian Government is working around the clock to provide updates and important information about COVID-19. It is vital that everyone in Latrobe can receive and understand this information. The Latrobe Health Assembly is working together with the Department of Health and Human Services, Latrobe City Council and local health services to implement a Latrobe specific communications and engagement plan to ensure that the most relevant messages, information and resources are being shared through local networks and community groups.
We have all been confronted with the ever-changing nature of COVID-19. Things can change daily, and it can be difficult to cope with the news of COVID-19 cases and deaths, the amount of change and volume of information that is being provided.
I want to offer three important messages to the people of Latrobe….
- Please continue to take the time to care for yourself and others. COVID-19 is a reminder to all of us about how important it is to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.
- Please continue to be understanding of the global and ever-changing nature of COVID19. It is impacting every aspect of our society and we really do need to work together and be patient with each other to get through this.
- If you have concerns, suggestions or feedback about how the government and health system response to COVID-19 is being implemented in Latrobe, please reach out to me to have your voice.
I will advocate on behalf of Latrobe communities and do what I can to support people during this difficult time.
Please continue to share your suggestions and experiences with me by contacting me on 1800 319 255, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Facebook @LHAdvocate and Twitter. For more information you can go to our website www.lhadvocate.vic.gov.au