Several drug and alcohol-dependent residents in quarantine at Condamine Court were denied withdrawal support this week, after a clinician shortage left some housing residents without access until Tuesday night.
Frontline workers have reported support services scrambling to provide alcohol to residents of the public housing complex on Monday, after taking it upon themselves to identify who was a flight risk without it.
About 70 residents of the Turner public housing facility have been forced to lock down after a person infectious with Covid was in the complex for five days last week.
Of those residents, a significant proportion have complex health issues with respite withheld from all residents for about 24 hours after they received notice to stay indoors, support staff report.
An absence of government health providers early in the week meant support services were unable to provide prescription medication to some residents, while others reported having dietary requirements ignored.
Chris Gough from Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy was called in on Sunday to advocate for those residents requiring access to drug treatment services.
He said throughout the emergency response a number of shortfalls had come to light, including a lack of available clinicians. Additionally, he said phone reception in the public housing facility was so poor residents couldn't communicate with each other or with outsiders.
Since Sunday, residents have been provided with phones and have had the opportunity to engage with Centrelink, as several agencies have stepped in to provide relief.
ACT Policing, Canberra Health Services, State Emergency Services and Housing ACT have all been involved in the response, which has included testing, the provision of urgent medical treatment and support for pets.
Mr Gough said there was a need to integrate specific services, including drug and alcohol services and mental health services, into emergency response planning.
ACT Council of Social Service chief executive officer Dr Emma Campbell said after speaking to workers on the ground at Condamine she was deeply concerned the ACT government response was not meeting basic needs, including the provision of health, food and appropriate medical support.
"The needs of these highly vulnerable Canberrans, including many older people who live at Condamine Court, are being dismissed and their basic human rights denied," Dr Campbell said.
"Many residents are short of food, medicine and other basic hygiene items."
Dr Campbell said with the exception of some dedicated frontline government workers, the advice of community service organisations had been ignored.
On Friday, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said government services would meet with support services to ensure everyone was well briefed on what measures were being taken to care for vulnerable residents.
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Tensions were reportedly running high at Condamine as residents entered their six of quarantine and awaited results from a second round of testing. Of the 76 tests conducted earlier in the week, just one had returned a positive result.
Dr Campbell said the ACT government should have been prepared for this situation.
"The ACT government had assured us they had learned the lessons from previous situations in Melbourne and Sydney, this does not seem to be the case," Dr Campbell said.
"Indeed, whilst the heavy handed nature of the lockdown in Melbourne was highly problematic, there was at least appropriate provision of food, medicines, healthcare, mental health supports and access to communication.
"From what ACTCOSS has heard, this is not the case in relation to Condamine Court."
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