Geraldton COVID clinic closed for hours due to staffing shortages at the weekend

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton Health Campus.
Camera IconGeraldton Health Campus. Credit: Lisa Favazzo/The Geraldton Guardian

A Geraldton woman who was turned away from a COVID testing clinic at the weekend has been left frustrated and concerned about the ability of the Mid West to handle a virus outbreak.

After developing flu-like symptoms the day prior, the almost 70-year-old woman arrived at the testing clinic adjacent to Geraldton Health Campus just before 10am on Saturday.

The clinic was closed and she waited for about 30 minutes in the heat — a top of 42C was recorded on the day — before she was directed to enter the testing clinic in the hospital’s emergency department.

But the woman said she was told there were no respiratory nurses available to conduct the test immediately and she would have to wait until 12.30pm to be seen to.

She said it was “frightening” she was directed to sit in the ED with about 20 other patients given her flu-like symptoms.

The woman was able to acquire a free rapid antigen test — which came back negative — but she said the staffing shortages and miscommunication did not give her confidence about the hospital’s ability to respond to COVID in the community.

Representing the Minister for Health, Education Minister Sue Ellery this week told Parliament the clinic was normally open from 10am to 3pm every day, but did not open until 12.30pm on February 19 due to staffing shortages.

She said testing should have been available 24/7 in the hospital’s ED, which she described as an “appropriate testing location”.

“The testing facility operates alongside the emergency department and is not a 24/7 facility. It is designed to complement the emergency department by diverting testing away from the emergency department during key hours,” she said.

“Rapid antigen tests are now an acceptable diagnostic tool and should be used when PCR testing is not practicable.”

But shadow minister for regional health Martin Aldridge said he was concerned the State Government was not taking COVID testing seriously in the Mid West.

“For a symptomatic Geraldton resident to be given inaccurate information on clinic opening hours, asked to sit outside in 42-degree heat, and eventually told no nurse was available to conduct testing, is not the sign of a regional health system ready for COVID,” he said.

“If symptomatic patients presented for testing in Perth the clinic would be open, they would have their concerns taken seriously, and they would be treated quickly and safely. Regional residents deserve the same.

“It’s also perplexing that symptomatic regional patients are being directed to local emergency departments for testing, yet when this occurred at Fiona Stanley Hospital last month it was considered a major protocol breach.”

Mr Aldridge said it was “imperative” the Government make access to information on testing locations more easily available.

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