COVID-19 not only threatens the physical health of our COVID Ward inpatients, but also psychological health, with new research revealing varying degrees of post traumatic stress following infection. Family members of COVID inpatients are similarly at higher risk of psychological distress in association with isolation measures such as lockdowns and strict limitations on attending hospitals and funerals.
Northern Health’s Allied Health social workers, psychologists and pastoral care workers have come together to establish the COVID Psychosocial Response Team to provide a range of psychosocial and bereavement supports for our COVID inpatients and family members.
The team has assisted a significant number of inpatients, partners, children and grandchildren to manage high levels of stress, anxiety, bereavement and grief. Some family members have also required assistance with practical concerns such as a lack of food, accommodation or finances, causing them increased worry.
The team offers one central point of internal referral through HealthPOWER (used for inpatient referrals and clinical data collection) for all COVID inpatients and family members, and self-referrals are also welcomed via phone or email.
Dr Brooke Froud-Cummins, Clinical Leader of Psychology, commented that, “Our COVID Ward staff are already enormously stretched, besides the COVID Psychosocial Response Team supporting improved patient and family outcomes, it is also so important to take the added weight of responding to emotional distress off staff as much as possible and to make referral simple and stress-free.”
Those involved with the COVID Psychosocial Response Team can receive up to three months of psychological therapy, social work supports and/or pastoral care. Linkages with relevant community supports on discharge will also be a key aspect of the care provided. DPV Health Head to Help services, which provide mental health and wellbeing support in the Northern Health catchment, will be a key partner in supporting those requiring longer-term assistance.
Dr Froud-Cummins also said, “Private psychology and social work services are also strained owing to the pandemic, with wait times of up to 18 months to see a psychologist with a GP Mental Health Plan being reported to us. The COVID Psychosocial Response Team undertakes to bridge this gap for our COVID inpatients and their support networks with ongoing psychosocial concerns.”
Ward staff can direct HealthPOWER referrals to PsychosocialResponse and will receive a triage worker response seven days per week. For further information, click here.
Featured image: Dr Sian Cole (Psychology), Tim Gauci (Social Work) and Natalia Dewiyani (Pastoral Care) from the Allied Health COVID Psychosocial Response Team.