With Central Australia’s Indigenous community worst affected, COVID-positive individuals often have to leave already over-crowded households fearing the infection of more vulnerable family members.
The Territory and Federal AMA are also calling for the federal government to step in to provide safe isolation and quarantine accommodation in Alice Springs as existing facilities aren’t culturally sound for Indigenous patients.
AMA NT President Dr Robert Parker said calls made by leading Aboriginal organisations for culturally appropriate crisis accommodation had fallen on deaf ears. He said there would be an ongoing need for culturally appropriate supported accommodation throughout the entire duration of the pandemic.
AMA national president, Dr Omar Khorshid, said the NT was failing its most vulnerable people and any help offered should suits the needs of Indigenous people.
“There needs to be a better plan than disaster management for the Northern Territory and impact of COVID in its remote communities. Omicron will not be the last variant to arrive, and that the accommodation crisis it has caused has not been addressed in scandalous.
“In any case the Commonwealth should provide quarantine facilities in Alice Springs that suit the whole community,” Dr Khorshid said.
Dr Parker said COVID had brought to light the failings of long-term housing and homelessness, left unaddressed for decades.
“No other group would be expected to live in squalid conditions with 20 to 30 people in a three-bedroom house, but this has been normalised for Indigenous people. It’s a failure of public policy that needs to be addressed,” Dr Parker said.
He said emergency accommodation and social support, along with a Code Brown alert, would help relieve some pressure on NT hospitals which are under enormous strain, with exhausted staff and crippling nursing shortages.
“We rely on double shifts to get through. Alice Springs Hospital, like Royal Darwin Hospital, is bursting at the seams and the backlog of elective surgery is staggering. We will likely see increased morbidity associated with delays to treatment.”