The head of the city's leading female wellbeing organisation fears the expansion of a home care program will worsen an already unsustainable load carried by women.
Victorian health minister Martin Foley said $698 million would go towards expanding the Better at Home program during a pre-budget announcement. The initiative would allow patients to be surrounded by family and to access nurses, clinicians and allied health professionals at home.
Women's Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West chief executive officer Emma Mahony said the push for medical care at home would likely add to the pressure faced by women.
"Fundamentally we know that the vast majority of care roles are filled by women," she said.
"We know when we move medical care into the home there are gaps where someone else has to be there providing supervision and support for the hours in between. We know that's a load carried by women.
"We also know it's having a life-long impact on their income but also their career prospects as well as their health and wellbeing."
She said this was a trend she observed when parents increasingly home-schooled their children during the various COVID-19 lockdowns.
"We know over the course of the last couple of years the load women are carrying is growing, through homeschooling and the impact of COVID-19 whether on the front line and more pressure and stress in the workplace or loss of jobs," she said.
"I feel there's a strong connection between trying to continue to work and homeschooling children. What's happened is women have been given this whole other load - they've had to supervise schooling and maintain commitment to their work hours and responsibilities.
"That has led to real health and mental health impacts. There's a real spike, it's like another whole shift has been added to their life. How could you do both? How could any of us really imagine putting another six hours into our day?
"In some ways it's currently quite invisible and unpaid work and what's actually sitting beneath any of these ideas is unrecognised work.
"As a feminist organisation we want to say we're all about choice. Let's have women and men equally wanting and encouraged to take up these caring roles. Let's think about the impact for carers on their health and wellbeing and income and job security. Let's value care, lets value what sits beneath this model."
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She said she'd heard from many women who'd been grappling with the new pressures.
"It's exhausting and has been really demanding for these women," she said.
"At a personal level I know a great many women who have experienced anxiety and depression during this time. There's an accumulative fatigue, what's harder is now it's a little more chaotic.
"A lot of them have found it incredibly hard to even manage looking after children while doing their job.
"Many of the women I know feel really blessed they've been able to work through the pandemic and have job security throughout it. What we're seeing at a state level is growing rate of anxiety and depression in women particularly.
"We're not seeing it as a beautiful and positive role to take up, we're not selling it to other members of the community who might want to take up those roles."
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