Leading Australian disabilities advocate Rosemary Kayess has told of the harrowing way people with disabilities have been made to feel “dispensable” during the coronavirus pandemic.On an episode of the ABC’s Q&A dedicated to loneliness last night, Ms Kayess revealed she had a visceral reaction when she examined how COVID-19 patients were being triaged for treatment.Australian disability advocate Rosemary Kayess discussed how coronavirus lockdowns resulted in people in vulnerable health categories feeling ‘dispensable’. (ABC Q&A)
Those triage systems valued disabled lives less than others, she said.
“There were examples from various countries where they were just singling out diagnostic groups, not based on any clinical analysis, just diagnostic groups were being listed that wouldn’t receive critical care,” she said.
Despite being an academic who teaches and writes about the unequal treatment of disabled people every day, Ms Kayess said the triage systems still “hit me in the face”.
“It was such a visceral reaction that I had. It was so in my face that I was dispensable … that my life wasn’t valued. And I was dispensable.
“I had this illusion … I thought I was doing a pretty good job with my life: working, and I own my home, and I love my family, and I’ve got friends and thought I was contributing. But when it came down to it, I was dispensable.
“I was not one of the real people. And, yeah, it hit me in the face.”
Ms Kayess’ powerful account clearly moved Q&A host Hamish Macdonald, who offered his empathy.
ABC Q&A host Hamish Macdonald appeared emotionally moved by the account from Rosemary Kayess. (ABC Q&A)
“I’m really sorry to hear that, it’s awful,” he said.
Ms Kayess shrugged and said she was not alone.
“You speak to anybody with a disability, when that triage stuff was happening,” she said. “And how do you think older people feel?
“Older people are really only ending up in aged care systems because of their impairments., and so from the word go it’s been reinforced to them — they’re the collateral damage.”
Coronavirus outbreaks have ravaged Australia’s aged care sector, with more than 600 deaths linked to residential homes nationally.
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