Finding Clarence-based measure to combat the coronavirus does not seem high on the Northern NSW Local Health District agenda.
Finding Clarence-based measure to combat the coronavirus does not seem high on the Northern NSW Local Health District agenda.

Health cold shoulder to Clarence coronavirus measures

AS LOCAL health authorities confirm a fifth coronavirus case on the Northern Rivers, they have shown a reluctance to introduce Clarence Valley-specific measures to combat COVID-19 in the region.

Clarence doctors said the absence of locally-sourced cases of coronavirus has given the Northern NSW Local Health District a chance to implement measures to prepare the region for an outbreak.

These include opening a fever clinic here, fast tracking other surgical procedures to free up resources to deal with an outbreak and turning rehabilitation beds at Maclean Hospital into coronavirus beds.

The Daily Examiner sent the health district a list of questions based on discussions with local doctors, but they have largely chosen to provide generalised advice on how to deal with cases as they arise.

Chief executive, of the Northern NSW Local Health District Wayne Jones said five cases of COVID-19 have been recorded so far in the health district.

He said four had been acquired overseas, and the fifth was under investigation as to the source.

"Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 and their close contacts are either being treated in hospital or are in self-isolation to ensure there is no ongoing risk of infection to others in the community," he said.

"Locations where these cases live, work or have visited do not pose any ongoing risk to the public.

"NSW Health promptly notifies the public of any locations, including on public transport, where there has been a risk of infection.

"This is so members of the public can monitor their symptoms, if any develop, and seek medical assistance if they become unwell."

Mr Jones did not give an indication if or when a proposed fever clinic for the Clarence would open.

He indicated clinics at Lismore and Tweed Hospitals were the only one available now testing for COVID-19.

"These clinics are for those most at risk with respiratory symptoms or fever, those returning from overseas or in contact with a COVID-19 case, or people like our health workers," Mr Jones said.

"People without symptoms do not need and will not be tested at this stage.

"Northern NSW Local Health District is closely monitoring the volume of respiratory presentations at all our facilities, and we will use this information to determine when and if we need to open other clinics at any of our sites."

Mr Jones said pushing forward elective surgery plans have been considered.

"We will consider what is appropriate for patients, and a key focus will be ensuring that patients with the highest clinical urgency continue to receive their surgery within clinically recommended time frames," he said.

He said there were no plans to close the Maclean Hospital rehabilitation ward.

"We are in regular discussion with our clinicians in the Clarence to support them in responding to COVID-19," he said.

He said statewide the health system planned to double the number of ICU beds.

NSW Health has expedited orders to significantly increase the supply of additional ventilators and associated equipment to prepare for increased demand across the State's hospitals.

He said people should continue to adopt the safety measures recommended including social distancing and regular thorough hand washing.

Mr Jones said residents of residential aged care facilities are at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and are more vulnerable to serious complications if they do become infected.

"Staff and visitors who have travelled overseas or who have had contact with a confirmed case must not attend the facility for 14 days from the time they returned from overseas or last had contact with a case," he said.

The Commonwealth Department of Health provided advice to people about issues around aged care.

"Anyone who is sick, including children and even people with minimal symptoms, should defer their visit until they are well." he said.

For more information on coronavirus in the Clarence Valley click here.

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