Albury-Wodonga is on the brink of a COVID-19 outbreak on the scale of the Ruby Princess fiasco, Border Medical Association chief Scott Giltrap has warned.
He says doctors are travelling freely between Melbourne's centre of infection and Albury and Wodonga public hospitals without applying effective quarantining procedures or "meaningful COVID-19 testing".
"These are the people most likely to be in contact with the virus yet they are less scrutinised," Mr Giltrap said,
"We can't do it this way and keep our community safe."
The longstanding fertility specialist says the BMA and local doctors hold grave concerns the virus will be introduced to the area via the medical profession.
Mr Giltrap said registrars, who had been working on the Border for the past six months, were going back and forth to Melbourne to work and also to socialise with family and friends.
"It's really nuts," he said.
"Doctors have a COVID test when they arrive but you generally don't test positive for 3-5 days after exposure; in the meantime they are seeing patients here on our wards.
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"Victoria is in a pandemic and some of these doctors are working in high-risk facilities in Melbourne or going back at the weekend because they are bored.
"They return to work on the Border on a Monday, they may have been exposed to the virus but not test positive until after their shifts finish here.
"Hospitals here are operating on the basis that PPE, face shields and washing your hands is sufficient."
Mr Giltrap said the policy was "not rational ... and is exposing all staff and patients to an unnecessary risk of infection".
"It's going to be a Ruby Princess," he said.
"Melbourne is proving to be a major centre of COVID-19 infection and we need to accept that we are going to acquire significant number of infections unless we practise proper preventative measures."
Mr Giltrap has urgently flagged the issue ahead of the next change-over of 23 new registrars on August 3.
"We've had the borders shut to stop the spread of this virus into NSW and it's affecting the local population tremendously," he said.
"Somebody from Tangambalanga, who is no risk, can't go to work at a bakery in Albury because they can't get a Border pass.
"Yet we have doctors coming and going from Melbourne who don't have to follow the same management policies as the rest of the population."
He acknowledged AWH was in a "difficult position".
"The Accident and Emergency Departments (at Albury and Wodonga) have a continual change-over of staff from Melbourne and other states often for only one of two days.
"The hospital claims it needs these locums to run the service."
This is almost certainly going to introduce COVID-19 to our hospital system and our community.Scott Giltrap
He added AWH had "stated unequivocally" it was not prepared to stop hospital doctors visiting Melbourne.
Interestingly, the AWH anaesthetic registrar who was moving to Canberra had to quarantine for two weeks prior to moving into the Canberra Health service.
Mr Giltrap said if we continue on this path "this is almost certainly going to introduce COVID-19 to our hospital system and our community".
Compounding the problem is the limited facilities for COVID-19 patients at Albury hospital (which has the only ICU).
"There is only one room with an anteroom for removing contaminated PPE, so once there is more than one case contaminated equipment will have to removed in the public corridor," he explained.