We mustn’t lose our humanity when it comes to Covid
Published on December 8, 2021
Humanity in Health
Humanise Health believes all patients need to be treated with dignity. Sadly, there are many illnesses where this doesn’t happen. Illness can be scary and – too often – this fear leads to stigmatisation rather than compassion.
We are launching a blog series – Humanity in Health – to explore issues around health conditions that attract stigmatisation. We want to raise awareness, bring about a shift in attitudes, while also increasing understanding and empathy.
Stigma and fear around COVID-19
COVID-19 has, understandably, created a great deal of fear and uncertainty for us all. It’s the first major pandemic in more than 100 years and the global death toll now exceeds five million. Before effective vaccines were developed, it is understandable that fear of the virus was running at a high level.
Now that effective vaccines have been rolled out across Australia, borders are reopening after almost two years of tight restrictions. We should still adhere to social distancing, wearing masks in crowded settings and protecting the most vulnerable in our society. But, with the benefits of vaccination now apparent, we also need to work to reduce levels of fear and stigma around the virus.
We’ve been told by public health officials we will need to learn to live with the virus and Humanise Health agrees with this.
COVID-19 Case Study shows worrying attitudes
Sadly, in South Australia, it appears that public health bodies are not following their own advice.
South Australia opened its borders, as it had agreed to, when vaccination rates hit 80%.
SA Health states on its website that, for people who test positive for COVID-19: Your living arrangement will be considered when you are contacted by a public health official about your positive result. Families will be kept together wherever possible.
SA Health’s own Dignity in Care guidelines state: When dignity is present, people feel in control, valued, confident, comfortable and able to make decisions for themselves.
However, the experience of Matthew Zubrinich – a resident of Adelaide who is double-vaccinated but tested positive after South Australia’s borders reopened – raises serious concerns about the way public health officials in South Australia are treating patients who test positive to COVID-19:
Matthew, who is married with two young children, was forcibly separated from his family, against the health department’s own recommendations and his own wishes.
He is currently being detained in a medi-hotel against his consent.
He has received conflicting test results and confusing information about quarantine arrangements
Most seriously – it appears that Matthew was included in a clinical trial without his consent, which is in contravention of well-established “informed consent” protocols set out by the Australian Government.
Our call to action
Humanise Health calls on Australian public health bodies to treat all Covid-19 patients with compassion, dignity and to communicate clearly and transparently. Vaccinated individuals should only be placed in government quarantine facilities where there is an over-riding public health requirement to do so. Individuals should – as much as possible – give their express consent to being removed from their home, and they must be treated with dignity and compassion at all times. This will help remove fear, alleviate stigma, and reduce the risk of mental health issues in the future for the individuals concerned.
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