Pandemic plan in place

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
A settling in period will be needed as trucks as well as hoon drivers embrace the perimeter road.
Camera IconA settling in period will be needed as trucks as well as hoon drivers embrace the perimeter road. Credit: Warren Hately

If the COVID-19 pandemic hits the Capes region hard, the Health Department will put a regional health disaster co-ordinator in place to oversee all emergency responses.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said the region’s emergency services, Shire officers, and State government agencies would swing into action as part of existing protocols. “The Local Emergency Management Committee exercised a scenario late last year as part of the annual requirements,” she told the Times.

“While not focused on COVID-19 specifically, the response approach covers infectious diseases.

An Operational Area Support Group is being formed by the (Health) Department, including the standard emergency response agencies.”

Past emergencies, including the 2011 Margaret River bushfires, meant volunteers were well-versed in crisis situations, but the full reach of coronavirus remained unknown.

The pandemic, officially declared by the World Health Organisation yesterday, could have serious knock-on effects for the Capes beyond health consequences.

A question mark hangs over next month’s Margaret River Pro, with Surfing WA chief executive Mark Lane unable to say if it will go ahead. The World Surf League did not respond to Times inquiries.

The region’s economy could also fall victim to the pandemic, despite West Australians being encouraged to holiday down south.

The WA Government this week established eight PathWest collection centres in Perth — and the Federal Government also bolstered public health support — but no clinics will serve the Capes.

The Health Department did not respond to questions about preparations for the pandemic at the Margaret River and Busselton hospitals.

“Patients in regional WA with a GP referral can attend one of the 29 collection centres that are testing for COVID-19,” the department said in a media release.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said a clinic must be established in Busselton to service the Capes.

“The McGowan Government needs to ensure that travelling to one of the clinics in Perth is not the only option if there is an outbreak in the region,” she said.

“We are now a major regional centre with a higher-than-average number of people over the age of 65, and with that a number of aged care facilities, so there needs to be capacity to initiate a response quickly, if required.”

A local GP who did not want to be named said practices had seen a bump in bookings this week.

Ms Addison-Brown said the Shire was following directions from the Health Department and would soon attend a briefing for local governments outlining the State’s emergency plan if the situation worsened. Information posters were in place at Shire facilities, including caravan parks, she said.

She referred residents to the coronavirus updates at healthywa.wa.gov.au or the information line on 1800 020 080.

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