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Woman survived on muesli bars for nine days: Royal Commission

1 month ago 15

A disabled woman was bedridden for nine days, surviving on only muesli bars with no help with meals or care, a royal commission has been told.

Melbourne woman Ricky Buchanan, 45, told the disability royal commission her friend went nine days without any disability support because she was waiting on a COVID-19 test and carers would not come until she tested negative.

Ms Buchanan said it was concerning disability services immediately pulled services until people with disabilities had a negative coronavirus test.

She told the commission, in her statement, her friend went nine days without a carer, had no help with meals or personal care and was eating muesli bars and staying in bed the whole time.

Ms Buchanan, who is also disabled and spends most of her time lying flat in bed, told the commission she began thinking about her own emergency plan following the summer bushfires.

She found Victoria had a list for vulnerable people but those aged under 65 could only be added by their carer, with their consent.

“I certainly never had a service provider do that. None (of my friends) said they had ever had a provider do it either,” she said.

Ms Buchanan has a flatmate, who lives with her rent-free as part of a home share program where he offers 10 hours of help in exchange.

But when he became exposed to COVID-19 at a doctor’s surgery, she arranged for her NDIS package to fund his two-week quarantine, as it would have been too hard for her to move with all the necessary equipment.

She said it took “hours” on the phone to make the arrangements.

Ms Buchanan said people who are homebound are “overwhelmingly” locked out of the medical system, with little access to doctors, specialists and other health providers.

But recently flagged federal government changes to telehealth limiting Medicare subsidised services to patients who have seen their GP face-to-face within the last year could “rip the services away” from people who can’t get to see their GP.

Up to 40 people with lived experience of disability, advocates and government representatives are giving evidence during this week’s public hearing into the impact of COVID-19 on people with disability.

The inquiry heard on Tuesday the federal government’s early health emergency response plan for COVID-19 failed to mention people with disabilities.

It wasn’t until April, weeks after a pandemic was declared, that a federal plan was formed for people with a disability following lobbying from the sector.

The hearing continues.

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