Perth’s snap long-weekend lockdown felt by vulnerable in Geraldton

Headshot of Lisa Favazzo
Lisa FavazzoGeraldton Guardian
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Picture: Liz McKellar Stewart says she feels like she is in "limbo" waiting to hear if she can travel to Perth for medical treatment next week.
Camera IconPicture: Liz McKellar Stewart says she feels like she is in "limbo" waiting to hear if she can travel to Perth for medical treatment next week. Credit: Lisa Favazzo/The Geraldton Guardian

Geraldton may not be under snap lockdown, like the Perth and Peel regions, but that doesn’t mean it’s business as usual, with some community members — like one woman who travels to the city for medical treatment — feeling the burden more than others.

Yesterday, Premier Mark McGowan called on everyone who has travelled to Perth since April 17 to wear a mask in public. However, on Saturday afternoon Health Minister Roger Cook later said people who returned to the Mid West from Perth or Peel should “stay home”.

“We can’t take chances with the virus,” said the premier.

Premier Mark McGowan. Pictured during a press conference at Dumas House regarding an update on Cyclone Seroja and COVID-19. 12 APRIL 2021
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan. Pictured during a press conference at Dumas House regarding an update on Cyclone Seroja and COVID-19. 12 APRIL 2021 Credit: Danella Bevis The West Australian

Geraldton Health Campus has already started enforcing new procedures at its testing centre.

According to signage at the facility, symptomatic patients are still required to visit the emergency department. But, the hospital has set up new testing areas for people who are “asymptomatic testing as directed by WA Police”.

All Western Australian’s, regardless of where they live, are required to present for immediate testing if they visited one of the identified exposure sites during the listed periods.

As early today, there were no large lines at the hospital’s emergency department or separate asymptomatic testing facility, but a WA Country Health Service spokesperson said it was expecting an increase in COVID-19 testing.

The spokesperson said the asymptomatic pathway was established “to ensure the emergency department can continue to prioritise life threatening and emergency presentations”.

An asymptomatic testing facility at Geraldton Health Campus.
Camera IconAn asymptomatic testing facility at Geraldton Health Campus. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

For some community members, the indirect impact of the lockdown will mean more than presenting for testing or mandated mask-wearing.

Liz McKellar Stewart has a Patient Assisted Travel flight booked for Monday night. In Perth, she plans to visit an old friend dealing with a cancer diagnosis and get treatment for her cervical dystonia, a painful condition causing involuntary muscle contractions in her neck.

“I don’t want to go down to Perth on that flight and be told I can’t get off,” she said.

Ms McKellar is anxious she will miss her appointment for a therapeutic botox treatment, which helps reduce pain and improve her ability to balance and walk.

She said it was too late on Friday to get in contact with anyone who could change her flight when she first got wind of the lockdown.

She tried contacting Qantas who told her she would need to deal directly with Patient Assisted Travel, a WA Country Health Service agency which helps regional patience access medical care in Perth. Unfortunately, the service’s phones unmanned over the weekend.

“If i can’t get on another flight before Thursday, it could be another two or three months before I could see my neurologist,” she said.

“Until then, I am in limbo”.

A spokesperson from the WA Country Health Service said: “Since lockdown measures were implemented, the WA Country Health Service has been working to contact all impacted patients booked to travel under the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme throughout the next three days.”

The spokesperson said to travel in medical circumstances was permitted and that the department could provide written evidence of this if required.

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