When Knox Private Hospital registered nurse Lisa Peters posted privately on her Facebook page about her experience of coronavirus testing at the locked-down public housing towers, she simply wanted to reassure family and friends.
Some media reports, including an interview with Senator Pauline Hanson, had created fears of public housing residents that Lisa wanted to counter.
‘The media had portrayed them as being full of hostility, drug and alcohol concerns, and as I saw it, a frightening place to go. They had shown residents pleading for help for food and basic supplies, protests and a lot of anger,’ Lisa wrote in her post.
But the reality that the team from Knox Private Hospital soon saw for themselves was very different, Lisa wrote, as they encountered grateful and gracious residents. As well as testing the residents for COVID-19, the nurses asked them if they needed any supplies.
‘There were some very simple requests, lactose-free milk, an onion and tomato, dish-washing detergent, sanitary pads and toothpaste,’ Lisa wrote in her Facebook post.
‘My heart was full when I left thanks to the “I love you” said to us, the constant thanks and displays of gratitude. We were invited into many homes, even offered a tea or coffee. I went into a few rooms with elderly, frail and young children. This was optional and only if we felt safe. We did, we felt like guests. I saw many, many boxes of food and supplies at the three towers we attended yesterday.’
While Lisa originally wrote the post as her way of debriefing and reassuring friends and family, she changed the setting to ‘public’ after a friend asked if she could share it. Much to Lisa’s surprise, the Facebook post was shared by the ABC and thousands of members of the public.
Lisa was accompanied on her testing through the towers by another Knox Private nurse and two police officers. Ambulance Victoria paramedics assisted the nurses don and doff PPE, which also allayed Lisa’s concerns about infection control.
Lisa usually works on a surgical ward at Knox Private Hospital but was among hospital healthcare staff who responded to a call-out to carry out COVID-19 testing at the public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne.
ANMF (Vic Branch) supported the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) to fundraise and distribute culturally-appropriate meals for approximately 3000 residents in the nine public housing towers who were in ‘hard lockdown’ for five days from 4pm on 4 July. The residents had no warning of the lockdown and were unable to leave their homes for any reason apart from emergencies.
VTHC worked in partnership with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Streat and the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies to provide culturally-appropriate meals and other necessary supplies.