Dr Lil Vrkevski1,2, Ms Hannah Gutmann1, Dr Matthew Modini1,2, Professor Andrew Baillie3,4, Ms Miranda Shaw1, Ms Sarah Whitney1,4, Mr Vincent Craw
1rpavirtual, SLHD, Camperdown, 2050, 2Psychology Department, Mental Health Service, SLHD, Concord, 2137, 3Sydney University, Sydney, Australia, 4Allied Health, SLHD, Camperdown, Australia, 5University of Tasmania, Rozelle, Australia
COVID-19 was first reported in December 2019 and was declared a pandemic in March 2020. Due to the highly infectious nature of this disease, Australia passed legislation that meant overseas arrivals must quarantine for a period of at least 14-days from the 29th of March 2020. In response to this, Sydney Local Health District remodelled rpavirtual, a recently opened facility designed to deliver clinical care virtually, to be able to care for individuals quarantining in special heath accommodation with COVID-19 or complex care needs. The need for allied health (AH) support at rpavirtual quickly became clear, with patient reported issues ranging from pre-existing or exacerbated mental health issues to financial instability and homelessness, all of which could not be covered by a pure biomedical model. Allied health staff rapidly redeployed to rpavirtual included psychologists and social workers and were quickly trained in the delivery of online care. Anecdotally, AH staff overcame various challenges including supporting an increasing number and complexity of patients, keeping abreast of evolving policies around the treatment of COVID-19, as well as adapting and delivering traditional face to face evidence-based interventions virtually. As AH professionals will likely continue delivering virtual care into the future, it is imperative that we learn from this experience. To guide the delivery of future services, we propose the experiences of AH staff at rpavirtual are investigated. This can be done through semi-structured qualitative interviews before using thematic analysis to develop common themes about AH’s experience in a virtual hospital throughout the pandemic.
Hannah Gutmann, Dr Matthew Modini and Dr Lil Vrklevski are all clinical psychologists who responded to the pandemic by establishing the psychology team at rpavirtual to provide psychological care for patients in quarantine and those who were COVID-19 positive.