Disabled healthcare providers overwhelmed during pandemic

By Stefan Dimitrof

The Disability Rights Commissioner is launching an inquiry into access to support for disabled people during the Omicron outbreak.

Paula Tesoriero says disabled people are more likely to have continuing health conditions and long-term illness or death from Covid-19 than non-disabled people.

With thousands of new cases of Covid-19, every day and hundreds in hospital, academic and disability rights lawyer, Dr Huhana Hickey says it was inevitable that those with disabilities and chronic health conditions would miss out on access to care.

Te Ao Tapatahi talked to Hickey about the disparity disabled people endured during the pandemic.

Hickey says one disabled person had already died after a six-hour wait for an ambulance at the start of the surge of Covid. “iThat's an indication that it’s going to be very hard for the disabled community.”

Slow to act

She would have liked to have seen Covid information handled in a more efficient and organised manner. ”It was a year into the pandemic before the information was in an accessible format and before they started realising that disabled need their carers and they need their carers to be safe.”

Hickey doesn’t blame the government for the slow rollouts of support but she does say that the policymakers were slow to act. “The implementation has been highly flawed.”

She says“there are disabled lives at risk, especially Māori disabled, because of the high number of infections, overcrowding and poverty.”

"We’ve got disabled people who have spent 36 hours in their wheelchairs because carers have become sick and providers haven’t provided an alternative.”