Mr Snowdon was admitted to Austin Hospital on July 11 for a matter unrelated to COVID-19 and discharged on July 14. The following day the hospital told him to isolate because a patient in his ward had tested positive to coronavirus. Several days later, tests revealed Mr Snowdon had contracted COVID-19.
He said he felt fine and had no symptoms.
But he has raised concerns about a lack of communication from the Health Department, along with consistently being given incorrect information about the Victorian government’s much-lauded $1500 hardship payment.
“I hadn’t received a phone call from the department after the hospital identified me as a close contact,” he said.
“My housemates are close contacts to me, and during my contact tracing interview [on Sunday, July 19] I told them about my housemates, but they haven’t received a phone call from the department.
“To say I couldn’t afford things would be wrong, I’ve still got money. The thing that’s worrying is I don’t have any dates, or know if I’m getting any money or when I’m allowed to leave the house. I can’t plan when I can go back to work.”
On Wednesday Premier Daniel Andrews revealed a vast majority of Victorians who developed symptoms were not getting tested immediately, and more than half were not isolating after being tested – a problem driven largely by workers without paid leave entitlements.
He said the government had been addressing this through the one-off $1500 payment for Victorians who test positive to coronavirus and do not have sick leave entitlements, or who are close contacts of confirmed cases.
More than 1200 people have applied for the hardship payment, established four weeks ago, but only 182 Victorians have received money. The department is following up with the rest to confirm their eligibility.
On Thursday, Mr Andrews extended the package by announcing a $300 payment for people awaiting test results.
But Mr Snowdon is sceptical.
“When I saw Daniel Andrews talking about ringing the 1800 number, I immediately recognised it as the COVID hotline number: I feel sorry for anyone trying to get answers,” he said.
“I feel like they’re telling people what they want to hear, but they’re making it hard to get the assistance.”
Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari called on the Commonwealth to introduce paid pandemic leave, and urged the Victorian government to speed up the application process.
“The hardship payment is important and getting it into people’s hands quickly is the key to it working. It should be received like your regular pay, so you’re not struggling to find money to pay the bills,” Mr Hilakari said.
A Health Department spokesman said: “We’re working as quickly as possible to process payments and we’ve recently changed the way we gather information and process claims to speed up the process and make it easy as possible.”
A government spokeswoman said the state had”announced an expansion of the Worker Support Payment to make it easier for Victorians to access the scheme – and we’ve also changed the way we’re delivering it, to make sure applications are processed faster”.
Acting Industrial Relations Minister Mathias Cormann said the federal government was “continually monitoring” the situation, noting some states, including Victoria, were paying a form of pandemic leave to some people.
“The Commonwealth is already providing significant financial support to workers affected by COVID-19 through JobKeeper, which applies to eligible workers whether they are at work, on reduced hours or not at work at all,” Senator Cormann said.
“Alternatively, JobSeeker may be available subject to individual circumstances. Separately, the Fair Work Commission is considering applications to insert paid pandemic leave into the aged care sector award.”
For more information about the payment, call 1800 675 398.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.