The Commission is closely monitoring the ACT Government’s health response to COVID-19. Human rights must be an integral part of the design and implementation of health-related policies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. A human rights based approach requires the government to provide timely and accurate health information, to provide protection against the disease, including giving special attention to the heightened disease risk of vulnerable and marginalised groups, and to ensure the availability and accessibility of essential medical treatment when needed.

The provision of critical care services must be non-discriminatory and particular care must be taken to guard against unconscious bias in decision-making. Access to critical care services must be based on clinical presentation and not assumptions about the person’s age, disability, capacity, or other non-relevant factors. Steps must also be taken to safeguard the rights and well-being of frontline healthcare workers, including ensuring the availability and appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment.

It is also essential that innovative responses such as the adoption of telehealth do not inadvertently impact on the health and wellbeing of our community by reducing essential in-person assessments. This includes in settings such as aged care or disability residential accommodation where a reduction or denial of in-person assessments as a risk management response can inadvertently lead to poor health outcomes for vulnerable people in our community.

Resources about health responses to COVID-19:

Queensland Health Department – Resources and information for clinicians

No exceptions with COVID-19: “Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions” – UN experts say

Disabled People’s Organisations Australia – Statement of Concern – COVID-19: Human rights, disability and ethical decision-making