COVID hospital shutdowns off the cards in Mid West region for now

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
WA Country Health Service principal health officer Dr Helen Van Gessel has said hospitals would not close in the event of a COVID outbreak among health workers.
Camera IconWA Country Health Service principal health officer Dr Helen Van Gessel has said hospitals would not close in the event of a COVID outbreak among health workers. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The State’s regional health provider has assured Mid West residents country hospitals will remain open and able to meet the demand of rural communities.

The announcement comes in the wake of concerns being raised by Three Springs residents over the operation of the North Midlands Hospital.

Upon visiting the town, shadow minister for regional health Martin Aldridge said residents were concerned the hospital would cut operating hours or close completely in the event of a COVID outbreak among local health workers.

But WA Country Health Service principal health officer Dr Helen Van Gessel said hospitals would continue to to service the regions as the State’s daily COVID caseload increased.

“We aren’t closing country hospitals,” she said.

“On the contrary, we’ve spent the last decade investing hundreds of millions of dollars increasing service capacity with things like Telehealth technology, cancer treatment, renal support and palliative care.

“It’s our job to put the welfare of our staff and patients first and prepare for every possible outcome — and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Dr Van Gessel said while WACHS’ planning aligned with the Department of Health’s system-wide response, it also needed to factor in circumstances unique to country WA.

“We’re working on contingency plans in the event someone working at a remote hospital unknowingly contracts COVID while out and about and all of their colleagues become close contacts,” she said.

“Any temporary service change will only be called upon when we have exhausted every other avenue — including our own rapid deployment pool and support from our metropolitan counterparts.”

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