A new statement on the managed quarantine program for international arrivals has been published by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), underscoring the need for proactive mental health support for people in quarantine.
The committee published its statement on Thursday, in keeping with its commitment to periodically review the national managed quarantine principles so that they reflect ‘emerging evidence and align with best practices’.
This includes people who may be experiencing poor mental health, with specific assessment advice prepared by the Department of Health’s deputy chief medical officer for mental health Dr Ruth Vine and the Mental Health Commission’s CEO Christine Morgan.
“Quarantine, whether in a hotel, camp or other environment is a health response, not a custodial response. People need to retain as much choice and agency as possible,” the experts list first among 10 other key guiding principles which includes keeping people informed of processes, and offering them opportunities to structure their day with ‘meaningful activity and social connection’ during quarantine.
“Every person undergoing quarantine will experience some difficulty. The main focus of psychosocial support is to enhance and maintain wellbeing,” Vine and Morgan add.
“Engagement of people in activity, wellbeing checks and information should be active and assertive, although responsive to a person’s request, not passive.”
In its latest advice, the AHPPC recommends that the health and functional needs of people undergoing quarantine in Australia should either provide extra support services to those in need or offer alternative accommodation arrangements for them.
They relate to the quarantine arrangements for all people arriving from overseas to Australia at international ports of entry, transfers and stays in quarantine facilities, and release from quarantine and return home or other location.
“States and territories should have processes in place to consider individuals’ circumstances and functional needs when assessing applications for exemptions on compassionate and medical grounds,” the statement reads.
“This includes considering circumstances where individuals’ functional needs cannot be adequately met in a quarantine environment (e.g. individuals with assistance animals where no appropriate accommodation for animals is available).”
The statement describes the health, mental health and wellbeing of those subject to managed quarantine programs as ‘paramount’, noting that access to clinical care via telehealth should be available and that processes are in place to escalate health emergencies (using ambulance and hospital services) as needed.
People who are quarantine as confirmed infected cases of COVID and those with more complex needs should be considered for isolation in separate facilities, the statement adds.
The AHPPC’s system-based risk-managed approach to hotel quarantine calls for focus on other critical areas including governance, infection prevention and control, and minimising transmission risk.