Doctors lead virus planning

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller has continued calls to provide more support to frontline doctors. Picture Jackson Flindell
Camera IconAustralian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller has continued calls to provide more support to frontline doctors. Picture Jackson Flindell Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Senior doctors have taken control of local planning for COVID-19 in the Capes region as frontline personnel prepare for the worst.

A medical specialist speaking on condition of anonymity told the Times a senior management team of frontline doctors took charge of pandemic planning for Bunbury Hospital this week, and Busselton Health Campus capacity would increase as well.

The doctor said leadership was “dramatically and rapidly” expanding hospitals’ capacity to deal with an expected influx of coronavirus patients within the next week.

“The measures we’re putting in locally will help,” he said.

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“We’ve got a good firm plan to protect the community and the hospital is under good leadership now.

“There’s going to be a huge toll.

“The biggest hurdle we have at the moment is we are having trouble acquiring the adequate protective gear because of all the (people) buying it up at Bunnings.

“I might be at the point where I can’t go to work because there’s not enough gear to protect doctors doing their work.

“We’re going to run out in a month. There’s not enough ventilators.”

The doctor said all available personnel were undergoing training for jobs normally outside of their duties.

“At this stage we’re doing everything we can to ramp up our capacity and train and upskill all the other doctors and nurses so they will be able to do this kind of work,” he said.

Doctors begged residents to stop hoarding protective gear because it endangered the hospital’s ability to treat loved ones once COVID-19 spread in the South West.

Bunbury Medical Centre’s Dr Brendan O’Dea said if community transmission was occurring, there was “no way to check” and it left doctors “uneasy”.

Six cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the South West on Wednesday, but Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said the virus was likely to be in communities already because only 0.4 per cent of WA’s population was tested so far.

Dr Miller again warned regional hospitals were seriously under-equipped to deal with any influx, but this week’s turnaround meant patients requiring intensive care would be accommodated in the South West without urgent transfers to Perth unless conditions worsened.

Dr Miller slammed the lack of disclosure from WA’s Health Department which was only stoking public fears.

“We’re all in the dark on the situation,” he told the Times.

“I’m really worried about the regions.

“How many face masks are there in the Capes? How many beds are there? How many ventilators are there?

“It’s like we’re playing chicken with the virus.”

The unnamed specialist doctor said he and other frontline workers were looking at six months without seeing their own families.

“I feel like a frontline soldier and I’m going to be leading a bunch of people for a battle we’re not prepared for and without the equipment we need,” he said.

“It’s like sending a firefighter to fight a fire with a garden hose and no respirator.”

Bunbury Hospital has cancelled all elective surgery and drafted all professionals into preparing for COVID-19 cases.

The Health Department did not respond to a request for specific details about Augusta, Margaret River and Busselton hospital capacity.

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