AN Orange doctor has put forward a radical plan to ensure a lack of childcare doesn't force medical professionals and vital workers to drop out of the workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With childcare centres and schools expected to close in the coming days as part of a NSW lockdown, Dr Kevin Rourke has devised a co-parenting model where one family teams up with another family to allow the workers, including those in the healthcare sector, to continue to work while their children are cared for by the second family.
This will allow effective social isolation by keeping children out of school.Dr Kevin Rourke
Dr Rourke said this continuity of care would allow for the closure of all schools without the resulting lack of childcare forcing workers to stay home.
"This will also allow effective social isolation by keeping children out of school," he said.
Dr Rourke, who stressed he was not an expert in infectious diseases, said he would like to see schools closed across the country.
"It is impossible to maintain social distancing at schools due to the amount of interaction, contact and the fact that they are such large groups," he said.
"We here in Orange have already started closing schools ... a decision that many health professionals in our town think is the right decision yet, we do not have a solution for childcare."
He said it was only a matter of time before COVID-19 reached schools and school closures became necessary.
"It is not just healthcare workers that need childcare," he said.
"There are many pandemic-essential industries."
According to Dr Rourke, this "match-making" initiative would only work if all parties fell into the low-risk category and no participant was pregnant, elderly or suffered from a condition where their immunity was depressed.
"We will get through this, but we need to work together to keep as many of our vulnerable loved ones as safe as possible," he said.
"Think of your mum or grandfather, who will need to self-isolate for the next two months.
"They need that delivery driver for Woolworths to show up for work and that driver can't go to work if they are at home looking after their seven-year-old son."
Dr Rourke wanted to see the federal government follow in the footsteps of other countries such as France, the UK and Singapore, when it came to restrictions and social isolation enforcement.
Dr Rourke said his plan was not endorsed by the Western NSW Local Health District, although some colleagues in the health sector had personally endorsed it.
He said payment to the carer family was not mandatory, but encouraged.
"This service being provided is work, but it is also charity," he said. "Carers should be doing this out of a sense of mateship and community responsibility."
Dr Rourke has launched a Facebook page, Orange-Emergency-Family-Child-Care-EFCC, to encourage discussion.
"What we need is to match families," the page states.
"Unlike family daycare, where one family takes in four children from four homes, this type of child care is strictly one family looking after another family's children.
"We encourage families to share information extensively prior to entering into one of these arrangements."
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