Albury Wodonga Health has rejected claims from the Border Medical Association that doctors travelling to the Border from Melbourne threatened a major COVID-19 break-out.
Association chief Scott Giltrap had warned that these doctors were moving between the two centres without applying effective quarantining procedures or "meaningful COVID-19 testing".
But Albury Wodonga Health said yesterday the Border community should have full confidence in the COVID-19 measures, for the fight locally and also the "critical" need to engage these doctors to maintain the service.
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"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," AWH medical services director Glenn Davies said in a statement.
"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."
AWH infectious disease specialist Justin Jackson said the service had 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," he said.
"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 Giltrap's concern was that while registrars had a COVID-19 test on arrival in Albury-Wodonga, "you generally don't test positive for 3-5 days after exposure; in the meantime they are seeing patients here on our wards".
But Dr Davies said interstate doctors on the current rotation "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," he said.
Another 25 registrars to begin their placements on August 3 will be COVID-tested the week before they arrive. Any with symptoms or positive results won't be allowed to work.
"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'," Dr Davies said.
"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."