“Let us not be distracted by the pressing needs for acute care; instead let us keep close to our hearts the humanistic principles of medicine that we should all live by, and that is, that at the end of every swab, every test, every ventilator is a patient with generations of history that we all need to be culturally, emotionally and professionally respectful of so that we can continue to provide the gold standard care to all of our patients, no matter the crisis that is unfolding around us.”
Dr Shannon Springer, Vice-President, Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, writing for The Guardian Australia (23 April 2020: ‘As doctors, we must remember that behind every test is a patient with cultural and emotional needs’)
ACEM acknowledges that vulnerable groups currently have health outcomes that are not only avoidable but unfair and unjust. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further exacerbate inequities and biases, including through the current reduction in services due to the pandemic response. Equitable, transparent decision making is vital at this time and should incorporate local community perspectives.
Emergency departments across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand must strive to provide culturally safe, equitable access to care to vulnerable groups, in particular Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander peoples and Māori, who are at greater risk of increased severity of disease and death from COVID-19.
Culturally safe care improves health outcomes for all patients, including those who are vulnerable. Special consideration should be given to people who:

  • Are living in social precarity - including people experiencing homelessness, poverty or incarceration.
  • Have barriers to accessing appropriate health care - including people living remotely, of lower socioeconomic status, or living with a disability.
  • Are marginalised – including the LGBTIQ community, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people experiencing mental health issues, or people living with addiction.
  • Have increased susceptibility to COVID-19 - including the elderly and frail, people with comorbidities, or people living in overcrowded conditions. 

Staff working in our emergency departments who experience increased risk from COVID-19, or have close family members who are at increased risk, should also be given special consideration with respect to work duties.

  • Caring for Māori Patients in the Emergency Department
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
  • References
  • Section disclaimer
  • Resources