LifeRAT throws out helping hand for people without access to COVID-19 testing

Posted 2 years ago by Anna Christian
People with disability who are struggling to access Rapid Antigen Tests for COVID-19 can apply to LifeRAT to have testing kits sent to their door for free. [Source: Shutterstock]
People with disability who are struggling to access Rapid Antigen Tests for COVID-19 can apply to LifeRAT to have testing kits sent to their door for free. [Source: Shutterstock]

A new campaign is sending free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) to people with disability who have been facing issues accessing the testing kits for COVID-19.

The initiative is called LifeRAT and uses donations to fund the purchase and distribution of the testing kits to people across Australia who have been unable to leave their home to access the tests or cannot afford to buy the tests, but need them to ensure their own safety.

RATs are important for essential support workers, as well as family members and other visitors, to use before coming in contact with a person with disability to make sure they are not passing the virus on.

They also allow an almost instant test result, within ten to 20 minutes, for people with disability who have been out in the community and need to know if they have COVID-19 before coming back home to protect other people they live with.

LifeRAT is headed by Dinesh Palipana OAM, a doctor and disability advocate from Queensland, who wants something to be done about issues with accessing RATs.

“People with disability are finding it difficult to get RATs,” Dr Palipana says.

“So there’s a combination of challenges, including physically actually getting access to the tests and then there is challenges in funding.

“I just thought we need to fix this problem without it becoming a political issue, without it becoming politicised, we just need to get these tests out.”

Dr Palipana adds that LifeRAT is not just seeking donations from individuals but would also like to hear from other businesses and organisations which may be able to help with the program – either through donations or through logistical support.

Several organisations have pulled together resources to enable the initiative to happen, including Able Digital Wellness, Bump’n, Australia Post, Lovehoney Australia and Mainfreight.

The plan is for the LifeRAT initiative to continue until all people with disability in need of RATs have free and easy access to the testing kits.

Melbourne resident Felice Vaiani was one of the first people to receive a free RAT kit through LifeRAT.

“Having access to free RATs is critically important for people with disabilities for their own health, but also that of their support workers,” says Felice.

“If a worker has symptoms of COVID, a quick result is needed. Many of us rely on a trusted team and the safety of all personnel is crucial.”

While some RATs can be funded under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and free RATs are available to certain groups of people – for example those with a concession card – Dr Palipana says the Government could do more to resolve the issues people with disability are still facing as not everyone has NDIS funding or concession status.

“I think the biggest thing that the Governments can do is not to make this a political issue because we saw that the State Governments threw it to the Federal Government and vice versa,” he says.

“This is not a political issue, it’s a humanitarian issue.

“There are people who are more at risk of complications with COVID, there are people who can’t live their lives.

“I have friends with disability who haven’t left their house for weeks and weeks and weeks, there are people that are too scared they’ll get the virus and can’t access tests properly.

“The biggest thing that I would like to see Governments do is just to fix the problem and not make it a political issue.”

Dr Palipana encourages all people with disability who are struggling to access RATs to register to have the kits sent to them.
More information about the initiative can be found on the LifeRAT website.