Appointments cancelled, clinics shut over border rules

 

GOLD Coast health workers say they have had to shut down clinics and cancel appointments because of new COVID-19 border rules.

Under border closure rules, health workers can be deemed essential and obtain a border pass with Chief Medical Officer approval - but only if working in Queensland.

Those working outside of the border bubble in NSW however say they have been left stranded.

One Gold Coast doctor said their border clinic would be forced to close due to COVID-19 restrictions shutting out staff.

The Bulletin had previously revealed the doctor - staffing the only COVID-19 testing station south of Palm Beach - had been denied entry to Queensland.

In an email to Mudgeeraba MP Ros Bates, the doctor wrote: "Please Help! (sic). Now The CHO (chief health officer) is saying the border will shut completely. All our reception staff live in NSW.

"We would have to close the surgery. Who would look after the pandemic patients? How would the health of Queensland be enhanced? We're already one doctor down but Queensland police are allowed in from anywhere. Schoolchildren would have to change schools."

Shadow Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Ros Bates speaking in Parliament. Pics Tara Croser.
Shadow Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Ros Bates speaking in Parliament. Pics Tara Croser.

 

Ms Bates said on Tuesday: "Labor's border confusion has reached a new low when a local surgery could be forced to close its doors because doctors and nurses are locked out.

"While celebrities and fake diplomats get exemptions and get to jump the queue, dodging mandatory quarantine requirements for incoming travellers coming from COVID

hot spots, everyone else is supposed to do the right thing," she said.

"There needs to be some common sense, especially for essential workers such as our doctors, nurses and paramedics. Surely a GP who runs a fever clinic is an essential worker in the middle of a global health pandemic."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk accused Ms Bates of being "reckless", reminding Opposition MPs they had "called for the borders to be opened 64 times".

"There would have been no border pass. There would have been no checks," Ms Palaszczuk said. "It would have been open season for all. Anybody would have been allowed in."

Further south, Ballina West Medical Centre practice manager Chris Wilson said two of their trainee doctors who lived on the Gold Coast were unable to get to work.

Very light traffic at the Queensland border with NSW at Stuart Street at Coolangatta after the border closed the NSW. Medical workers say they are waiting on exemptions which will allow them to travel back and forth. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Steve Holland
Very light traffic at the Queensland border with NSW at Stuart Street at Coolangatta after the border closed the NSW. Medical workers say they are waiting on exemptions which will allow them to travel back and forth. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Steve Holland

The trainees, at Mermaid Waters and Palm Beach, worked full time at the medical centre in Ballina, 50 minutes south of the Gold Coast, and are required to work 38 hours a week to complete their medical degree.

They are concerned aobut the impact on their qualifications.

Despite their concerns Queensland Health confirmed the pair not eligible for a quarantine exemption or specialist border pass because working in a NSW hot spot was not "essential" to Queensland.

This means they would be forced into self-funded quarantine for 14 days upon return to the Gold Coast or have to move to NSW to continue working.

Ms Wilson said the women faced having to pay double rent because they were terrified of jeopardising their careers.

"We naturally assumed they were essential employees, same as our doctors," Ms Wilson said.

"(Queensland Government's) allowing our doctors, nurses and paramedics across the border and they don't have to be isolated, so why can't ours do the same?

"It's a double standard, they can have our essential services, but we can't have any from Queensland."

On the Gold Coast similar problems have arisen for Dr Craig Layt a plastic surgeon who has a Southport clinic and a day surgery in Ballina.

"As soon as we found out about the new restrictions, our office was turned upside down," Dr Layt said.

"We have been on the phones and emails trying to calm down patients. I've had to cancel 24 surgeries so far. I am OK with restrictions but there has been a serious lack of planning and communication."

Chief Health Officer De Jeanette Young addressing media. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)
Chief Health Officer De Jeanette Young addressing media. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)


John Flynn Private Hospital, at Tugun, has also faced complications as staff struggle to get passes.

Hospital CEO Adam Stevenson said: "The pandemic is presenting us with many unique challenges, including new border entry rules, which we are working through quickly to find solutions for our patients, staff and doctors.

"We are now submitting requests through this process on behalf of our staff and doctors who are currently unable to come to work because they reside outside the identified border zone."

Gold Coast Health confirmed patients who regularly attend hospitals for urgent treatment such as chemotherapy or renal dialysis can apply for an exemption to cross the border from NSW.

In addition to their border pass, they will need to provide written confirmation that you are patient of Gold Coast Health receiving ongoing urgent specialist treatment..

It is now 10 days since the last locally acquired case was found in the state.

Just two active cases exist on the Gold Coast.

Health Minister Steven Miles said Queensland had avoided a potential disaster.

"We cannot forget, though, that Australia - and especially Victoria - is in the thick of a major health crisis that will take a long time to resolve. The case numbers are alarming and the death toll is horrific.

"Anyone who questions our tough measures, be it border restrictions, mandatory quarantining or the capping of gatherings, should take note of what is happening in other parts of our country."

Originally published as Appointments cancelled, clinics shut over border rules


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