Pressure on health dept to come clean on COVID-19 plan
COVID-19 has not yet afflicted anyone in the Clarence Valley, with the first four cases diagnosed in Northern NSW arriving from outside the area, say local health services.
Northern NSW Local Health District policy forbids it to release geographical details of those diagnosed, but local doctors have confirmed none have originated locally.
Sources at the Clarence Valley end of the health district said the response to the coronavirus crisis has been good overall.
But they would like to see measures designed specifically for the resources available in the Clarence.
"We want to make sure patients in postcode 2460 don't need to die earlier than those in postcode 2480," was one comment.
Clarence medicos told The Daily Examiner there are a number of Clarence-targeted measures that would improve the local response.
This included local surgeons calling for certain surgical procedures to be pushed forward to free hospital resources for an eventual coronavirus outbreak.
Another would be to send patients in the Maclean Hospital rehabilitation ward home and free up the beds for coronavirus patients.
There were also concerns there was no clear timetable for Clarence residents about what to do if or when there was an outbreak of the disease.
"It appears to be safe now to go to a cafe with friends," said one source.
"We need to know when it would be not safe to do this."
The health district source said just because there was no COVID-19 outbreak here did not mean local patients were in the clear.
"Normally if a patient presents here with a medical emergency we can't handle, they're transferred," the source said.
"If Lismore, Tweed, the Gold Coast and Brisbane hospitals were all full with coronavirus patients that transfer wouldn't happen.
"It's conceivable that patients could die waiting here because there was no transfer available for them."
The Daily Examiner sent the following questions to the health district:
• How many people have tested positive to COVID-19 in the Clarence Valley?
• Have any of these been sourced locally or did they come into contact with the disease outside the Valley?
• Is it safe for people to have a coffee with friends at a cafe in the Clarence now? At what stage would you say it's not safe?
• When will the promised fever clinic in the Clarence Valley open?
• The health service has plans in place to cope with COVID-19 outbreaks. What are these plans and at what stages of an outbreak would they come into force here?
• How many ventilators are available for patients in the Clarence Valley?
• Given the demand for them, (Italy has cleaned out the inventory of an entire brand, Draeger), how do you get more?
• When should aged care facilities ban visits?
• What plans are in place to protect immune-suppressed patients in cancer and renal wards from contact with potential COVID-19 patients?
The health district did not respond in time for the paper's deadline, but did give a web address where people could find answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19: www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx