Queensland Police has admitted officers did not have enough notice to implement border checkpoints for essential workers, including crucial hospital staff.
Queensland Police has admitted officers did not have enough notice to implement border checkpoints for essential workers, including crucial hospital staff.

‘Very short notice’: Hospital staff pay price for closure

TWEED hospital staff are struggling with work travel, and shopping centres are all but ghost towns after a rushed Queensland border closure.

It comes as Queensland Police admits officers did not get enough notice to implement checkpoints for essential workers, such as hospital staff.

Tweed Hospital nurses, midwives and other staff have been contending with huge delays for hours at the Queensland-NSW border without much-needed special checkpoints to fast-track essential workers, whistleblowers say.

Almost 40 per cent of staff live in Queensland and about 20 per cent of patients also have to cross the border.

Police check cars as they cross the border on Griffith St at Coolangatta. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland
Police check cars as they cross the border on Griffith St at Coolangatta. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland

Patients have had trouble getting to appointments because Tweed roads resembled a car park due to traffic jams.

 

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But Queensland's Government has reiterated it will not review a contentious Greater Sydney border closure - splitting the Tweed and Coolangatta - until at least January 8.

Sources said medicos at the hospital 2km over the border were at their wit's end.

Tweed Hospital and its workers have been impacted by the sudden border closure.
Tweed Hospital and its workers have been impacted by the sudden border closure.

"It's a mess. Last time the border closed they had border exemptions for essential workers like hospital staff. They were able to show their ID and get straight through," one said.

"That's no longer the case. They've had to queue up at the border like everyone else.

"(On Tuesday), staff were told 'Don't bother, just keep your car in the car park' because there's no point queuing for three and a half hours.

"They're having to walk over the border, they're jumping through one of the blockades - there's no one there, you just walk over so it defeats the whole purpose.

Gold Coast Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler speaking with an officer at the border. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland
Gold Coast Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler speaking with an officer at the border. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland

"It's just crazy. If anyone needed to give birth I don't know how they're getting to the hospital (without an ambulance)," the woman said. "There's just no commonsense.

"It's just not fair to put people through this, especially people working in hospitals.

"They're doing huge shifts and they're expected to walk to the border.

"It's an absolute mess."

A Queensland Police spokesman said the closure was "reinstated at very short notice" and the earlier system had been "reinstated as an urgent interim measure".

 

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Northern NSW Local Health District CEO Wayne Jones.
Northern NSW Local Health District CEO Wayne Jones.

"As more resources arrive to assist, it's anticipated a fourth checkpoint will open on Miles St to assist in relieving congestion in the Tweed," he said.

Police previously noticed border delays easing as the community became accustomed to pass requirements, the spokesman said.

Northern NSW Local Health District CEO Wayne Jones: "Any impact on patients accessing healthcare is disappointing and of concern.

"We've been in contact with the Queensland Government about implementing staff checkpoints to reduce delays."

The hospital was "supporting our staff as best we can" and the health service was speaking with its Queensland counterparts, he said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Tweed MP Geoff Provest said he approached Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk about reinstating worker checkpoints, but had not heard back.

Many Tweed businesses, including in Tweed Mall shopping centre, have been left reeling by the shut-out as traffic crawls.

Tweed Chamber of Commerce said its priorities were freeing up traffic around health services and reopening the locals-only Ducat St checkpoint.

The new closures are similar to those first enforced in March, not the most recent system from November.

Chamber board member John Weaver said it was disappointing the Queensland Government knew what worked before and failed to implement measures in a peak holiday period.

He said the chamber was lobbying Mr Provest, Richmond MP Justine Elliot and NSW Police to work with Queensland to ease traffic pressures in Tweed Heads CBD.

Tweed Hospital staff are waiting hours at the border.
Tweed Hospital staff are waiting hours at the border.

Mr Weaver said the Chamber wanted locals-only and freight checkpoints reintroduced to stop traffic queuing more than 1km down Wharf St from Coolangatta's Griffith St checkpoint.

Social media photos show Tweed Mall's car park and inside the centre all but deserted days before Christmas.

Tweed councillor James Owen said he has been "inundated with complaints" from residents about the inconvenience going about essential daily business.

"People are reporting delays of up to two to three hours to complete routine daily tasks, travel to work, and attend appointments, including necessary medical appointments," he wrote to Ms Palaszczuk.

"This is exacerbated for those that must transverse the border several times a day, making it almost untenable for many local small businesses."

He called for the reintroduction of the Ducat St and Nerang Murwillumbah Rd checkpoints to "greatly reduce the impact of the border closure on Tweed Shire residents going about their day-to-day lives."

Originally published as 'Very short notice': Hospital staff pay price for hasty closure


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