The new ‘Call-to-Test’ COVID-19 service is a topic of discussion for many people with disability at the moment.
This free service is for people in metropolitan Melbourne, who have COVID-19 symptoms but cannot leave home due to injury or mobility problems. To access this service, a referral to a GP is needed from a telehealth consultation.
Once you have a referral you can call the 1800 675 398 hotline.
A nurse will visit your home within 48 hours of the service receiving the GP referral. You will be encouraged to remain in isolation for a few days until the results are given to you.
Gina, a Summer Foundation Program Officer in our Lived Experience Team interviewed some people with disability in our network about their experience of this new ‘Call-to-Test’ Procedure.
Recently, I received a text message, “Dear EMMA, Result: Covid-19 virus was NOT DETECTED. Consult your doctor about release from isolation”.
After my five day wait in my safe spot, I can finally emerge. But the elation of receiving a negative covid19 result was short-lived. The realisation hits that you’re still at a high risk and you need to remain in isolation with the other ‘vulnerable’ people.
Like many people with a disability, the announcement of the ‘Call-to-Test’ was a huge relief. Before in-home testing was made available, many other people were very worried about leaving the safety of their home to have a test. The emotional and physical barriers are overwhelming: Organising transport, exposing others to the virus and the emotional turmoil that this can cause. These are big issues for people everywhere right now.
Daniel Black is a 57 year old passionate Richmond fan and person with cerebral palsy. He currently lives in supported accommodation. A fear identified by Daniel, before the test, was having an adverse reaction from it“…I was worried hearing that [which related to his carers testing experience} and how my muscles would react because of my CP.”
Thankfully, neighbourhood testing meant that Daniel didn’t need to deal with having the test at his local shopping centre.
“I was worried how I would get there, always think of those logistic problems and only way to get around it would have been a taxi – even some of the drivers would not drive you there,” he said.
Daniel adds: “… I’m at high risk [of catching COVID-19] because of my breathing and swallowing issues.
“If you have underlying disabilities that’s hard. I think it is more helpful to be in your own environment and it puts you at ease.
“It’s important because you don’t have to travel anywhere which is a greater risk, going outside of your home.”
Kate Skene, a 44 year old Hawthorn fan and passionate advocate, shares Daniel’s understandable concern at putting others at risk. As a person living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) living in supported accommodation, Kate says the test (whatever the location) is still uncomfortable, “… While I couldn’t go out it was a sense of relief, I wasn’t putting anyone else at risk”.
Prior to in-home testing, Kate says: “It was awful going out with a mask on and I felt like a bit of a leper, because this was when masks weren’t mandatory – I felt like everyone was thinking, suspected COVID-19!”
The Call-to test is definitely preferable for Kate who has experienced both.:“I didn’t have to put anyone else at risk… it was just me.” .
Both Kate and Daniel reported quite good experiences of the Call-to-Test, and their concerns about strangers coming into their homes, the procedure being uncomfortable and the associated anxieties.
Daniel reflected on his experience saying: “…They had all the PPE, they looked like astronauts. I knew that was going to happen because I’d seen it on the news. I was prepared for it mentally, so it was ok. For me it didn’t feel too bad, …one of them gently held my hands while the other one did the test. They swabbed in the mouth and then the nose.“
However, these obstacles still exist for people living in a regional area.
Unfortunately, this Call-to-Test Initiative is not available for people living outside of Metropolitan Melbourne.
This realisation is quite confronting, especially for Kirby, a 35 year old person who has had a stroke. Kirby who loves horror movies and lives in her own specialist disability accommodation (SDA) apartment in Geelong, a regional area and, has been housebound since March.
Kirby was told by her Doctor to “stay home” but she isn’t eligible for the in-home Covid19 test.
As Kirby’s mum Carol says, it’s discriminatory.
“Just because you live in a regional or rural area you are still at as much risk as people with disability in Melbourne,” she said.
“Your geographical position doesn’t affect your vulnerability or your disability. We still have the virus everywhere, especially if you are going to a medical centre to be tested.”
Kirby remains “hopeful” that in-home testing will become available outside of Melbourne and says she “feels safer at home”.
At the Summer Foundation we will continue to advocate for in-home testing for people with disabilities to be made available nation-wide.
Find out more
DHHS Call-to-Test Service hotline is 1800 675 398 (select option 9 to find out if you are eligible for this service).
Easy English version of the Call-to-Test Service: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/202008/Easy%20English_Call-to-Test%20service-pdf-2408.pdf
Call-to-Test policy & FAQ:
Places where you could go to get tested:
Information carers and support workers: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/05/information-for-support-workers-and-carers-on-coronavirus-covid-19-testing-for-people-with-disability_0.pdf