AWH Statement - Interstate medical workforce and COVID-19
Sunday, 26 July 2020 / Albury Wodonga Health
As a cross border health service that provides specialist care to a regional population nearing 300,000, Albury Wodonga Health (AWH) would be unable to operate without rotating in doctors from interstate, including Melbourne.
Without them, key departments such as the Emergency Department, Mental Health, Paediatrics, Surgery and Cancer services would have to shut their doors resulting in devastating health consequences.
AWH Executive Director of Medical Services, Dr Glenn Davies said the Border community should have full confidence in the COVID-19 measures in place to support not only the fight locally, but the critical need to engage these professionals to maintain the service.
“Every day we assess and manage the risk of COVID and balance this with the ongoing demand to deliver vital health care to our communities,” Dr Davies said.
“The essential locum and registrar workforce we rely on is made up of highly trained and dedicated professionals who have a clear understanding of their responsibilities.
“These are clinicians who know better than anybody how vital infection control is, not only for their own health but for their families, patients and community.
“The current cohort of doctors from interstate have acted very responsibly. Even with the social isolation of COVID compounded by working in an unfamiliar environment without the support of family and friends, many elected to stay local both this rotation and last."
The health service confirmed that from Monday 3 August, 2020, approximately 25 registrars would begin their placements with AWH.
In line with the latest Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) advice, this cohort of doctors would be COVID tested the week before they arrive and any person with symptoms, or positive cases excluded from work.
Dr Davies said screening and infection control protocols in place across AWH follow best practice guidelines and were consistent with those in major metropolitan hospitals and have been effective in managing the current environment and risk.
“While these doctors are not prevented from returning to their principal place of residence on days off, they must advise AWH management of any planned trips outside the ‘border bubble’.
“If any elect to travel to Melbourne, mostly to see their family and young children after weeks on the job, they are subject to the strict stage three lockdown conditions and are put through a rigorous screening process upon their return, which may include a further self-isolation period.”
AWH Infectious Disease Specialist Dr Justin Jackson said that from the outset of the pandemic, the health service had been on the front foot of infection control.
“I am very proud of the incredible work Albury Wodonga Health has done and is doing to protect our community from COVID-19,” Dr Jackson said.
“As an organisation, we recognised the risk of potential transmission from one healthcare worker to another or from patients to each other and pre-emptively responded.
“We have provided inpatient care for three confirmed cases at Albury Hospital and the infection control measures have been effective in preventing any secondary transmission.
“AWH was the first hospital nationally to introduce mandatory face shields for all doctors, nurses and other staff working on the inpatient wards and the Wodonga COVID drive-thru clinic was the first in regional Australia.
“Early detection and isolation will continue to be out first line of defence, which is why we need everyone to do their part by getting tested, even with the mildest of symptoms,” Dr Jackson said.