Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton published a co-authored opinion piece in the Australian Medical Journal, criticising Australia’s national plan for missing an explicit “recovery phase” to address long-term health and economic impacts of the pandemic on Nov. 15.
The commissioned article was co-authored with professor Stephen Duckett from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, RMIT.
The recovery phase often comes as the last phase of a disaster and serves as the period to restore aspects of the disaster’s impact and return the local economy to normalcy.It is usually implemented once the impacted region has achieved a degree of physical, environmental, economic, and social stability. Whilst there’s no explicit recovery phase within the timeline, the graded loosening of restrictions is aimed at recovering stability; socially and economically.
Sutton and Duckett in the article said that the recovery phase is needed to address economic effects and manage mental health impacts.
“COVID-19 became a disease of low-income workers,” the two said. “It affected Australia very unevenly, with poorer outcomes for those at the greatest disadvantage.”
The two called for a recovery phase to rebuild resilience within the community and the governance system as well as to plan for workforce responses for staff to recover. They also urged governments, hospitals, and care services to learn and reflect during this phase for improvements.
“In 2022, public health practitioners and organisations must seek to better understand these social drivers of health in the COVID-19 era, and receive the resources to redress disparities exacerbated by the crisis,” the article read.
While the authors agreed the country had “weathered the COVID-19 storm well” they said it was time for some “belt-tightening” to safeguard the public health system.
“Our death rate was among the lowest in the world, and the impact on the economy was also relatively mild,” they said.
This success they argued was due to the country’s mass vaccination hubs, increased telehealth options for outpatients and flexibility demonstrated by hospitals.
But Sutton and Ducket warned that Australia could not become complacent as that will encumber how the country moves into living with COVID-19 in the future.
“We must ensure that our health system has the capacity to respond to the shadow pandemic of mental health problems caused by the viral pandemic and its management and that we are well placed to face the challenges of both long COVID and future pandemics.”
This comes as Australia registers that 69.4 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated.