“we do worry about people living alone, people who don’t have good social supports”, how cohealth’s pathways team supports those isolating with covid-19

Posted on 17th December 2021
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Unwell, scared and living in a garage with no toilet, shower or even access to hot water. This was the story for one local teenager diagnosed with COVID earlier this year.

cohealth’s COVID positive pathways team came into contact with the 19-year-old, who was living in a share house, isolating in the property’s garage, and experiencing financial stress with little family support to draw on.

With scarce money to pay for food he was relying on his sister who dropped meals in when she could.

Luke Atkin, Place and Partnerships Advisor at cohealth, explained that once the pathways team was connected with the young man, they quickly realised that his situation was incredibly difficult and distressing for him, and a risk to his health and recovery.

“He had no family home he could go to, only a small support network and limited financial means to pay for support. He was using a bucket for a toilet and couldn’t even take a shower,” Atkin said.

The pathways team made an urgent appeal to the hotel quarantine program and were able to quickly move the young man into a hotel for the rest of his isolation and recovery period. The team also provided ongoing support and contact.

Atkin said: “He told me, ‘you should have seen the colour of the water when I took that first shower’.”

cohealth’s pathways team is made up of 45 healthcare workers from a range of fields, who have become skilled at responding quickly and compassionately to the wide range of challenges faced by people who may struggle with isolating while they recover.

The pathways model links low-risk patients with a local GP who manages their at-home care, while those at higher risk are referred to in the home hospital support or admitted to hospital. For those people who can safely remain at home, the team provides a range of

Social and health supports, such as making sure they have food and essential medication, that their caring obligations are being met, and their mental health is being supported.

Another young person diagnosed with COVID found himself at risk of missing an important year 12 exam, which could have had a disastrous impact on his studies, and his long-term goals, after a huge amount of work and sacrifice.

The high school student was living at home with his family, who faced significant financial stresses, when he contracted COVID. Although he had finished the isolation period and was well, he did not have the official notification clearing him to leave the house, and his school would not allow him to sit the exam without it.

The pathways team moved quickly to work with their partner public health unit to get the paperwork fast-tracked. The student was able to sit his exam and achieved his goal of successfully finishing year 12.

Dr Nicole Allard, public health and clinical lead for cohealth’s COVID response, as well as a GP, epidemiologist and researcher with the Doherty Institute, said when cohealth initially assessed people diagnosed with COVID, they asked about clients’ social context and whether they were able to get support in the community.

“We do worry about people who are living alone, who do not have very good social supports or a good understanding of how to navigate the health system,” she said.

“People’s ability to isolate is obviously dependent on the supports that they have in the community, having people who can drop food off and support them through their illness.”

Around, 30,000 people Australia-wide have been referred to cohealth’s COVID positive pathways program since the pandemic began. This is about 1-in-6 of the country’s COVID positive patients.

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