By Melissa Frost
We’ve been in the second half of 2022 for several months now.
This short piece relays my experiences as a Chronic Disease Management nurse in SE Queensland.
Firstly, SE Queensland became the escape hatch for the Eastern seaboard. Tens of thousands from NSW and Melbourne, fled the most locked down city in the world to the beaches of Queensland. This has had – and continues to have – profound ramifications on the local population. Homelessness. A suffocating lack of housing. Rents have increased in Surfers Paradise by 34%. A small one bedroom unit now leases for $450+ per week. The Gold Coast rental inventory is 0.2%. No caravan parks have an inch of space left. A NGO Housing group I interact with has been mandated by Gold Coast Council to help only tourists and students. And no longer the local homeless population. I’ve had hysterical young mothers on the phone begging me to find somewhere safe for themselves and their child. A 77-year-old, whose rental unit went on the market and they’ve received a 2 month notice to Leave. Where does he go? This broken soul. Where does he go?
I’m advising homeless patients with exacerbation of respiratory illnesses to present to the busiest Emergency department in the country. That would be the Gold Coast University Hospital. At least they will have a roof over their heads, a meal, a toilet and a shower. I can assist no one with finding permanent accommodation. There simply isn’t any.
I have been bracing myself for 2 years for these post pandemic realities.
Suicides have increased. A paramedic mate of mine went to 6 suicides in one week at the beginning of the year. Young men 25-40 yrs of age hanging by ropes in their garages. Domestic violence have increased by 26%. Child abuse have increased by 24%. Alcohol consumption have increased 4 fold. Prescriptions for benzodiazepines are up. Road rage is up. I have seen Queensland number plated car owners scream “go home” to Victorian plated cars. Polite discourse at the local shops no longer exists. The daily grind of making money to pay rent, feed the kids, pay that electricity bill and fill that bank-owned car with petrol can be seen on the streets of the Gold Coast as everyone scurries by, head down, shoulders down, neck tense, willing themselves to their jobs to prevent becoming another homeless statistic.
I’ve seen a real mood change on the Gold Coast. An alarming tsunami of misery and despair. Overseas mental health studies published in 2020 suggested that the pandemic would unify humanity, encourage solidarity and harmony. I have not witnessed any of that.
I’m surveying a massive collective acting out of the Gold Coast psyche. Released from government restrictions, Gold Coasters are angrier, uglier, and participating in self harm acts of high alcohol consumption, isolation and crime.
Psychology services are booked out for six months. So the business’ of the local alcohol industry continue to be profitable while the stressed population continue to self medicate.
So I battle on in my Chronic Disease Management nurse role, as all us nurses have done, hoping the ramifications of this pandemic start to wane and people get back to been civil to each other. Back to feeling safe in their housing, their jobs, their health, their mental health and all that sustains them and their families. The lucky life. The Australian way of life. Is this likely anytime soon? No. I’m afraid I don’t think so.
I will say this. Many of us medical professionals are dismayed at the mishandling of this pandemic by politicians. Thanks for this dystopia world on the Glitter Strip.
Frustrated Registered Nurse
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