Emergency staff at Albury Hospital are working double shifts since tighter Border controls forced out visiting doctors from Melbourne and other Victorian COVID-19 hotspot areas.
Albury-Wodonga Health chief executive officer Michael Kalimnios yesterday said its acute operations were now under "strain" after the NSW Government introduced another round of border restrictions with Victoria on Friday.
The tighter directives outlined by NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant now exclude Victorian doctors "who at any time in the previous 14 days" have been in a restricted area or "travel more than 10 kilometres south from their place of residence".
Mr Kalimnios said where possible AWH was now looking to source clinicians from Sydney or other regional Victorian locations not in stage four lockdown.
"Right now, Victorian doctors from beyond the border region cannot cross into NSW and this is placing some strain on our acute operations at Albury Hospital, with many Emergency Department staff working double shifts," he said in a statement yesterday.
And while the "border bubble" has not changed, AWH has lobbied successfully for a temporary exemption for a "select group of critical care employees" who live outside the region but need to cross into NSW to deliver services.
The exemptions, which mean critical workers will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days, will be valid until August 23.
The Border Mail understands AWH has not extended the tighter control measures to its cross-border hospital at Wodonga.
However AWH has stated its policy is "that any visiting medical staff from beyond the border region are screened prior to their arrival and depending on their circumstance, may be required to self-isolate".
It has implemented a "comprehensive suite of measures to help mitigate the risk of COVID transmission internally and externally".
AWH has previously rejected any suggestion that doctors travelling to the Border from Melbourne threatened a major COVID-19 break-out.
It has continuously reassured Border residents they should have confidence in the COVID-19 measures in place to protect the community and also the "critical" need to engage these doctors to maintain the service.
In line with the latest directive from the Department of Health and Human Services, AWH has confirmed it has ceased all non-urgent surgeries.
In response to questions about the effectiveness of PPE, particularly in relation to the ever increasing number of health workers across Victoria currently infected with COVID-19, AWH reaffirmed that:
"We have best practice infection control measures in place to protect patients from transmitting infection to staff as well as staff from transmitting infection to each other and patients.
"These measures give a safety net of the highest standard and patients can be confident in the care they will receive at AWH."
The measures include:
- All staff, even with the mildest of symptoms, must stay home and undergo COVID testing;
- a universal staff travel policy;
- That medical wards have been physically divided at the Albury campus as well as the medical and nursing teams;
- Universal masks and/or face shields at all AWH campuses and facilities;
- Minimising staff interaction from different areas within the health service; and
- A focus on preventing transmission during breaks and handovers with dedicated meal areas
Further, AWH says staff who visit or come from a stage four restricted area in Victorian must undergo "a risk assessment" before returning to work.