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Health staff optimistic

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Medical staff at Margaret River Hospital were buoyed this week as regional lockdowns came into effect, with hopes the region would continue to avoid the worst health effects of the pandemic despite a confirmed local case of COVID-19.

But stranded travellers and incoming absentee property owners boosting the Shire’s population could also put a serious strain on resources if community transmissions of the disease takes off.

A doctor speaking on condition of anonymity told the Times all elective surgery was cancelled and the theatre converted into a space for COVID-19 patients.

Critical cases would still be transferred to Busselton or Bunbury, they said.

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“Margaret River is not well-prepared for ICU,” the doctor said.

“My fear is Augusta and Margaret River (hospitals) being overwhelmed.

“If we can contain (the virus) and slow it down, we can still look after people properly.”

With the region’s population boosted, health workers still needed to manage everyday presentations, including serious cases such as heart attacks, the doctor said.

Medical staff begged residents to continue self-isolation, social distancing, and handwashing.

On Tuesday, WA Health Minister Roger Cook announced plans to bolster hospital capacity Statewide, but details for the Capes were not provided. It follows last week’s Times report that doctors had taken over preparations at Bunbury Hospital and Busselton Health Campus to relieve the number of transfers to Perth.

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest organised an emergency $160 million shipment of medical supplies, including one million N95 face masks, which arrived yesterday from China.

The local doctor said Margaret River Hospital still lacked adequate protective gear, but urgent discussions were taking place within the department.

“We are actually on a good trajectory at the moment,” the doctor said.

“People must continue to do the right things and not be complacent.

“This week is the first week I’ve felt optimistic.”

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said he had received calls from residents worried about the lack of disclosure on COVID-19 cases and protective gear for health workers.

“We need to safeguard our health workers so they are able to continue the outstanding work they do in delivering care to patients,” he said.

“As more orders of equipment come into the State, we need to ensure all regional areas are equipped as necessary.”

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