Hospitals not ready for virus

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Australian Medical Association (WA) president Dr Andrew Miller says Capes hospitals are unprepared for a pandemic.
Camera IconAustralian Medical Association (WA) president Dr Andrew Miller says Capes hospitals are unprepared for a pandemic. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian, Jackson Flindell

WA’s top independent doctor says Capes hospitals, including Bunbury’s, are unprepared and inadequately resourced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said State and Federal Governments were moving too slowly to contain the pandemic, that schools should close, and all travel stop, and Capes residents should immediately self-isolate to minimise community transmissions.

Although no cases of COVID-19 had been reported outside of the metropolitan area, Dr Miller, pictured, backed modelling that showed at least 250 cases “in the wild”.

WA’s first transmitted case was reported on Wednesday.

“We need to get the truth out there about what’s happening with the hospitals,” he told the Times on Wednesday.

Dr Miller said if his emergency department in Perth was short on protective gear and testing equipment, “what do you think the trickle-down is going to be?”.

Augusta and Margaret River’s hospitals and Busselton Health Campus were not equipped to face an influx of sick patients and were over-reliant on Perth transfers, he said. “Bunbury (Regional Hospital) is not set up for holding on to critically ill patients,” Dr Miller said.

“I don’t think (Capes hospitals) are well set up at all.

“I don’t say that to cause panic.

“They don’t have the capacity for any period of time to support a critically ill patient with intensive care needs.

“Regional doctors are feeling a bit abandoned at the moment.”

Dr Miller said Perth hospitals couldn’t handle an influx of patients who required ICU care and he feared for frontline health workers in the Capes.

“They’ll put themselves in harm’s way to treat a patient,” he said. On Wednesday, the WA Health Department responded to Times inquiries dating back to March 6, but did not address the staffing or equipment capacity of Capes hospitals. Also on Wednesday, a COVID-19 clinic was unveiled for Bunbury, but residents should call their GP for instructions, the department said. Local surgeries are asking patients not to enter, and to go to local hospitals if testing is required.

Margaret River-based GP Shaun O’Rourke said it was likely “the vast majority” of residents would eventually catch the virus.

“I think pretty much everyone’s going to get it at some point,” Dr O’Rourke said. “They’re just trying to flatten it out.”

Testing at local hospitals is only conducted on residents with fever or other symptoms who have been overseas or in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

“We’ve got fairly limited capacity,” Dr O’Rourke said.

“We don’t know how it’s going to pan out. We can do the best we can.”

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