Augusta goes into lockdown

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Augusta Hospital.
Camera IconAugusta Hospital. Credit: Derek Pool

Augusta residents are going into lockdown as fears about COVID-19 increase among the town’s elderly.

With a disproportionate number of older and retired residents, people in Augusta told the Times there was alarm in some quarters about how bad the pandemic might be.

Residents retired to Augusta for its isolation and seaside charm, but a question mark hung over the capacity at Augusta Hospital and the impending workload on the town’s aged St John Ambulance volunteers.

Residents continued urging visitors to stay away this week, while Augusta police used social media, dispelling rumours of vacant houses up for grabs.

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Shire president Ian Earl told the Times the average age in Augusta of 58 would be higher now because of an influx of absentee property owners and the shire’s 800-plus grey nomads whose winter plans were cancelled.

Cr Earl expressed concern for how Augusta Hospital would cope, as well as the region’s ageing St John Ambulance volunteer force. “We could end up in trouble,” he said.

Cr Earl said volunteer firefighters and State Emergency Service personnel could be required to help with hospital transfers in acute cases.

A local doctor speaking on condition of anonymity said Augusta Hospital staff were preparing the best they could despite a lack of information.

Like most WA hospitals, the supply of personal protective gear was inadequate.

Last decade, the WA Country Health Service removed on-call doctors from Augusta on weekends, except for public holidays.

Another local doctor also unable to be identified said Augusta was one of the locations of greatest concern.

“Augusta is very much a problem area for us,” the doctor said.

“A huge elderly population. We don’t want coronavirus getting down here. It will be a nightmare if that happens.”

Residents were advised to take social distancing, self-isolation and handwashing very seriously because WA’s low infection rate showed those measures worked.

Former shire president Nick Dornan said the Augusta community was taking the pandemic “very seriously”.

“(We) are very concerned, but we have a very supportive community here which is taking the opportunity to get ahead of the game to prepare and manage this unprecedented threat,” he said.

Former shire councillor Michael Smart said the township had adapted to the restrictions.

On social media, residents expressed concerns about the pressure on local food supplies, which had seen some prices skyrocket, which would challenge pensioners.

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman reiterated hygiene measures and residents banding together to help the elderly were of crucial importance.

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