Hospitals short on staff as medics stuggle to cross border
HEALTH workers who need to cross the Queensland/NSW border daily have been asked to sort out their long-term plans before the weekend.
Doctors on the Gold Coast who have to work outside the Tweed-Gold Coast border bubble or who live in NSW say they have been told by state health officials that exemptions that allow them to cross will last for only a short time.
"We are being told to find accommodation closer to work or sort other arrangements to slow the crossing at the border and exposure to hot spots," one doctor said. "Exemptions are supposedly going to be tighter to get in the future."
The news comes as the Northern NSW Health District confirmed 200 staff had been impacted by border restrictions and officials scramble to find a workable solution.
The Bulletin had revealed plans by one clinic in Northern NSW to close because of logistical issues.
On Wednesday NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard confirmed he had been in contact with the Queensland State Government to find a workable solution for essential medical workers needed at Tweed and Northern river hospitals.
"Common sense has to prevail, I have been in touch with the Queensland Health Minister and he understands the challenges and both the Queensland health and NSW health are working to try and address these issues," Mr Hazzard said.
"Clearly the border closure that occurred in Queensland was done by Queensland. It was announced by the Queensland Premier, there was not discussions with us at this stage.
"But I and the Queensland Health Minister are certainly trying to make those issues work."
Chief Executive of the Northern NSW Local Health District Wayne Jones said the department is reviewing pandemic plans to address any workforce needs.
"We are in discussions with NSW-based health workers who cannot attend their usual
place of work in Queensland, and who may be able to provide a service within NSW
in the short term," he said.
"We are also working closely with locum agencies to source additional NSW-based
staff to bolster our affected workforce outside the 'border bubble'."
Some staff are also being provided accommodation to remain in NSW where they work.
Gold Coast General Practitioners Association head Dr Katrina McLean - whose organisation spans into northern NSW - said many GPs had not been given any exemptions to attend their practices.
"It is really challenging because the concern is people are moving freely in NSW and there is a risk of the infection coming across the border.
"There is a degree of uncertainty, and many are preparing for the long term - looking to move training to Queensland or to move to work because of concern the bubble might turn into a harder border closure."
Dr McLean said the decision has had more of an impact on services in Northern NSW, given the number of specialists who travel south from Queensland.
"Those regional hospitals are going to really struggle to maintain staff and other specialist who travel down, so it is really going to be felt on the NSW side. "
Despite the logistical nightmare Dr McLean said she believed the Chief Health Officer's decision was the right one.
"Wanting to protect Queensland is the right decisions. Risk of infections of COVID are still too great with infections and community spread we are seeing in NSW."
A Queensland Health spokesperson said the state can't afford a second wave.
"NSW residents outside the dedicated border zone coming to Queensland for specialist medical care do not require an exemption but they must have a border pass and written support from their treating facility."
The department did not address the movement of doctors.
Originally published as Hospitals short on staff as medics stuggle to cross border