CATHOLIC care for the most vulnerable has become one of the biggest challenges as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across Australian communities.
Big and small, organisations are being forced to curtail operations and protect volunteers from direct contact with patrons – whether it is on the street or during home and hospital visits.
In Brisbane’s the mobile van outreach service Rosies, workers are “devastated” they have been forced to suspend their popular day and night operations.
Rosies volunteers provide company, friendship, food and beverages at 16 sites in Brisbane and regional Queensland from Cairns to the Gold Coast.
“This has been a difficult decision as our desire is to be physically present to our friends on the street,” the organisation said.
The difficult decision was made “in order to ensure the safety and well-being of our patrons, volunteers, staff and supporters, and to assist in slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
Facing the coronavirus pandemic, the St Vincent de Paul Society has introduced strict new protocols for making homes, hospital and aged care facility visits.
National Council president Claire Victory said the Society needed “need to be smart about how we do this so that both the community and our members are safe”.
“Many of our members are aged over 60 and most companions are living with existing health issues,” she said.
“Both groups are at higher risk of serious consequences should they become infected.
“As a result, all home-based visitations will cease until further notice from the National Council.
“Visitation will now occur at the discretion of the conference presidents and must take place by telephone or web-based care and support, or at a Vinnies shop or other facility.
“The rooms must have sanitisers and appropriate personal protective equipment including face masks, and the rooms must be disinfected prior to and after use.
“Visitation through hospitals and aged care facilities can only occur if the operator of the facility approves of ongoing visits and provides both sanitisers and appropriate protective equipment.
“The same rationale applies to visitation to other facilities such as prisons.
“Visitation or volunteering on Vinnies vans will continue until the relevant government authority suspends such activity due to the pandemic, and appropriate practices must be followed.
“If the relevant government authority directs the Society to cease providing visitation through attendance at a centre or vans or at another facility, the Society will provide assistance through telephone and web-based assessments.
“If the relevant government authority directs closure of schools and puts quarantine zones in place with travel restrictions then all conference and council meetings will be conducted by telephone or other use of technology.
“We will continue to monitor the impact of these changes on companions and respond as best we can.”
Rosies has encouraged anyone needing urgent support to contact online and phone support lines run by Beyond Blue, 1300 22 4636; Lifeline, 13 11 14; and the Homeless Hotline, 1800 474 753.