COVID-19 Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations

This Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres StraitIslander Populations (Management Plan) has been developed by the Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 and endorsed by theAustralian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

It is expected that the Management Plan will be a livingdocument that will be periodically updated to support and meet the objectivesof the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus(COVID-19) (the Health Sector Plan).

This Management Plan acknowledges that states andterritories and Primary Health Networks are also implementing and adaptingtheir own responses as the situation evolves and these are not explicitlyaddressed in this Management Plan but are referred to in the Resources sectionof this plan.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at a higherrisk from morbidity and mortality during a pandemic and for more rapid spreadof disease, particularly within discrete communities.

Pandemic preparedness requires engaging and working withAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to developculturally appropriate and safe risk reduction and pandemic strategies. ThisManagement Plan outlines the key issues and consideration in planning, responseand management for COVID-19 that need to be addressed at all levels ofgovernance, in collaboration with key partners and stakeholders, including withthe impacted communities themselves.

This Management Plan contains two parts as follows:

Part One: Overview outlines the guidingprinciples, context, key issues and targeted action for planning, response andmanagement for COVID-19 that need to underpin all engagement with Aboriginaland Torres Strait Islander people.

Part One is particularly relevant for organisations that donot have an ordinarily regular or large client population of Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander peoples.

Part Two: Operational Plan is directedat health care professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islandercommunities and peoples to be used as a guide for preparing First Nations communitiesand for developing and implementing local operational plans.

Part Two contains four phases for planning responses toCOVID-19. These four phases generally align with and reflect the stages in theHealth Sector Plan for COVID-19: Phases 1 and 2 with “Initial action stage”,Phase 3 with “Targeted action stage” and Phase 4 with “Stand down stage”.

Initial Action Stage

  • Phase 1: Preparedness – What communities andhealth services can do when no cases have been identified in an Aboriginaland/or Torres Strait Islander community.
  • Phase 2: Suspected cases or initial casesdetected – What communities and health services can do when suspected cases oran initial case/s is detected in an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islandercommunity.

Targeted Action Stage

  • Phase 3: Outbreak situations – What communitiesand health services can do when an outbreak is declared of COVID-19 in anAboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community (multiple cases of sustainedcommunity transmission).

Stand Down Stage

  • Phase 4: Stand down and evaluation – Whatcommunities and health services can do when the outbreak is controlled.

This Management Plan adopts COVID-19 responses alreadyunderway in Australia, but with specific operational guidance and tailoringrelevant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and how thehealth sector can best respond in an effective and culturally safe way.

As cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia are likely to require adoption of strategies during any of the four Phases and hence communities and health services could adopt the plan at relevant stages to their situation.

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