Code-COVID: Preparing the disability sector to plan for and respond to COVID

Ms Louise Mogg1

1Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Australia

Background: The rapid spread of the novel corona virus (COVID-19) has presented immeasurable challenges to the aged care and disability sectors; the former of which being the hardest hit in Victoria. Despite the obvious similarities in the living conditions and workforce between sectors, little was known about the COVID-19 preparedness of disability services.

Objectives: This study aimed to characterise disability services readiness to respond to Covid-19 and explore the effectiveness of site specific interventions to improve preparedness.

Method: Prospective, multisite observational study. Site specific interventions were implemented targeting four key areas around protective equipment, infection control, cleaning and waste management. Intervention incorporated education, role-play and provision of supports/equipment, with a focus on pragmatic application/role modelling. Implementation occurred between September and November 2020; coinciding with the tail end of the second peak of infections. Change in preparedness on the four key areas was assessed at baseline, post intervention, three and five months following intervention.

Results: Seven public and private disability services in Melbourne participated. Baseline compliance with basic infection prevention protocols was poor, with several key weaknesses identified in protective equipment and infection control policies. Intervention was successfully implemented across all locations, with descriptive analysis showing improvement in all key areas following implementation. These improvements were sustained over time, with a notable increase in staff confidence in managing potential outbreaks.

Conclusion: Findings highlight the vulnerability of the disability sector without targeted clinical intervention to support preparedness. Data also emphasises the need for tailored and site specific interventions to ensure sustainable translation.


Occupational Therapist/Disability Liaison Officer–Royal Melbourne Hospital

I have always worked in professions that involve working with people – Hospitality, Teaching, Sport and Health. For the past 10 years I have worked as an acute Occupational Therapist. I have maintained my involvement in National Disability Sports and continued in my university teaching. Currently I am the Disability Liaison Officer (DLO) for Royal Melbourne Hospital. I can honestly say I really love my jobs – no day is ever dull. I work with people from across all sections of our community and in all areas of our health service. I’m lucky.

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