There are calls for urgent improvements in the way people with disabilities are treated in mandatory quarantine, after a West Australian man spent two weeks in a non-accessible hotel room and was left in severe pain.
- The only accessible room Jeff Phillips was offered could not fit his family
- His request to quarantine at home after arriving from the UK was denied
- It’s sparked fears for the welfare of people with disabilities in quarantine
Jeff Phillips lives in chronic pain following a diving accident and has underlying health issues that make him vulnerable to COVID-19.
But despite that, he was told his family could not be accommodated in a suitable accessible room in Perth and was denied a request to quarantine at home.
The hotel room he ended up in with his wife Alison Atkinson-Phillips was so unsuitable for his needs, he ended up having to shower on a toilet seat frame, with neither the bathroom nor the rest of the room set up for people with a disability.
They are also set to be charged more than $6,000 for their hotel quarantine stint, having had to pay for a second room for their teenage daughter rather than being placed in an accessible family room.
Ms Atkinson-Phillips said the inappropriate accommodation took an enormous toll on her husband.
“They phoned up every day and he said ‘my pain is getting worse’, and there was nothing they were able to do about it.”
No reply to home quarantine request
Prior to arriving in Western Australia from the United Kingdom in late August, the Phillips family included information about Jeff’s disability in their application.
They say they were told they would be assessed for possible home quarantine once they arrived in Perth, and further information was taken from them once they were in their hotel.
But Ms Atkinson-Phillips said they never got an answer on their application to spend their 14-day isolation at home during their two-week hotel stint.
“We are already home from quarantine and we still have not heard back from WA Health,” she said.
Ms Atkinson-Phillips said being stuck in a non-accessible hotel room, rather than being allowed to quarantine at home, had devastating consequences for her husband.
“He is already taking maximum painkillers, he cannot take anymore.
“I don’t think he slept for the last three nights we were in the room.”
‘Diabolical’ ordeal for couple
Before flying in, the family had been seeking to return to Australia for weeks but were thwarted by a cap on international flight arrivals into the country.
Prior to that, they had bunkered down in the United Kingdom when the pandemic first hit, fearful of catching the virus if they flew home because of Mr Phillips’ underlying health issues.
Ms Atkinson-Phillips said they were offered an accessible room at one point, but that could not have accommodated their daughter and would have forced the 15-year-old to isolate on her own, away from her parents, for two weeks.
Their case was raised in State Parliament this week, with Greens MP Alison Xamon saying it rung alarm bells over the treatment of people with a disability in hotel quarantine.
Ms Xamon said while she supported mandatory quarantine, appropriate steps should be taken to cater for the disabled community.
“What has happened to this couple is diabolical,” Ms Xamon said.
“This is not a case of one couple falling through the cracks, it is happening over and over and over again.”
‘We explore every possibility’: Cook
Health Minister Roger Cook said authorities running the hotel quarantine system went to significant lengths to look after people with disabilities.
“If people do struggle to be able to be accommodated in a hotel environment, we explore every possibility for that person to do home quarantining,” Mr Cook said.
WA Health said it had a specialist team in place to deal with guests “with care needs and disabilities”.
“On arrival, if a person with disability is identified by the Department of Communities and/or the hotel reception team, a disability accessible room will be provided,” it said in a statement.
“If equipment is required to promote safety and independence in hotel quarantine, then equipment can be sourced from the closest treating hospital.”