Regional hospitals on full alert

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Andrew Miller.
Camera IconAustralian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Andrew Miller. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian, Jackson Flindell The West Australian Picture: Jackson Flindell

WA’s Health Department is refusing to disclose the location of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the South West amid numerous claims by residents that the virus has arrived in Margaret River.

On Wednesday, the South West had six confirmed cases.

The department said locations could not be confirmed because “we are obliged to protect patient confidentiality”.

“The department is working through contact tracing details for all confirmed cases,” it said.

“Anyone categorised as close contacts of a confirmed case are contacted and provided with information.

“Any information considered to be in the public interest will be released to the community.”

Although the reports cannot be confirmed, residents are urged to act as if COVID-19 is now in regional communities and adhere to all Government warnings around social distancing and self-isolation measures.

Hero doctors this week assumed control of Capes pandemic medical preparations — and again, despite no response from the Health Department to Times inquiries, insiders confirmed preparations had ramped up to prepare Bunbury Hospital and Busselton Health Campus for intensive-care capacity.

“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,” a specialist, who asked not to be named, said.

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller told the Times doctors were also in the dark on too many matters of vital importance.

“We’ve called on the Government to give us a full and frank briefing on regional, remote and city operations,” Dr Miller said.

“They’re in the midst of the biggest crisis in our lifetimes.

“This is what happens if you don’t give people information — lies will fill the vacuum and people will get more and more anxious.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the Government had to come clean on cases in the South West.

“There does need to be greater disclosure, as we haven’t been testing for community spread until now, though from this week if you have a fever and a cough you can get tested, which is a real positive,” she said. “I have spoken to frontline health workers from our hospitals and they are urging everyone to practise social distancing to limit the spread and the pressure on the health system.

“I understand that if we continue on the same trajectory of increase in infection, our hospitals’ ICUs will be at capacity at a State level by early April, which is why we must respect self-isolation and the advice provided at a State and Federal level.”

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said he was reassured to know regional health professionals were “doing their very best with the resources they have, and action plans for the COVID-19 pandemic are in place”.

Dr Miller said medics urgently needed more protective gear and ventilators, and doctors begged residents not to hoard medical supplies needed by doctors facing six-month isolation from their own families.

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