Many Southern Highlands residents will be expressing grave concerns at the latest developments in the Pandemic in Australia.
There have been significant community acquired infection spike in Melbourne and community acquired infections in schools in Lane Cove West and today Camden.
Should we be concerned? Yes.
This is the advice of Southern Highlands Division of General Practice spkesman, Dr Vince Roche.
"It is a big wake up call to all of us," he said.
"Looking around on the streets and the coffee shops, we have turned our back on social distancing over the last month.
"We have become complacent and the biggest story in the media is how soon we can pack thousands into stadiums.
"We are concerned at the jobs and dollars - and let down our guard by forgetting to do the major strategy that has greatly reduced our first wave in Australia - social distancing.
"Experts believe that we can allow people out of their houses back to shops, schools and sport - but that will be lethal if we don't physically distance ourselves.
"Just remember - a metre and a half from everyone else and plenty of hand hygiene.
"And any symptoms - fever, dry cough, unexplained tiredness , aches and pains, diarrhoea, sore throat, conjunctivitis, gut symptoms, a loss of taste or smell - should result in a Covid-19 test at one of our two testing sites in Bowral and Mittagong."
Dr Roche asked the simple question "are we surprised?"
Hi firm asnwer was "no."
"The initial goal for NSW (and ACT) had been suppression of Covid, but we have actually been heading for elimination," he said.
"This was not though. It was possible in the initial pandemic response plan.
"There is still evidence of community acquired infection, but at a really low level, which the NSW Public Health Unit feels can be eliminated if we continue to do as well as currently.
"Melbourne's current infection spike is exactly what is expected to happen with the suppression as a goal. In other words they expect to have spurts of infection.
"The current infections are mostly around family groups and this seems to have occurred as a result of the lowering of restrictions on family gatherings with most of these groups holding gatherings of, on average, 12 family members with no social distancing measures and lots of hugging and kissing.
"The infections are mostly in families where English is a second language - with lots of different ethnicities being represented in these different groups.
"We therefore will need to make a decision whether we want to pursue elimination or continue to be happy with suppression as this will mean different responses to the situation emerging in Melbourne."
Dr Roche ponders the question "whose responsibility is this decision?"
And the answer is simple. Ours.
"We have learnt the huge financial and personal consequences of managing a major outbreak," he said.
"If the pandemic keeps spiking in Australia, we will likely have to close down various areas and regions for periods of time - at even more cost.
"Surely we can see the wisdom in resuming physical distancing and Covid consciousness - more than just our health is at stake."
Dr Roche tips for the ongoing efforts to stop the spread of Covid are:
- physical distancing
- hand and cough hygiene
- everyone with a symptom must get tested (this includes children)
- do not go to work or school or childcare if you have a symptom - any symptom - and stay home until you are symptom free
- be modest in your family reunions and socialising - even then, maintain physical distancing.
- Avoid hugging and shaking hands.
An update on local Covid numbers are:
- Over 2300 tests completed at the Bowral Hospital Flu Assessment Clinic (FAC). Similar large number completed at the Mittagong Centre. This is the highest proportion of tests per head of population across the SWSLHD.
- No positive results in the Hospital Flu Assessment Clinic since April 22. All of these patients are now cleared.
- Across SWSLHD over 32,000 tests completed for a total of 273 positive cases.
- Of these 258 recovered, 9 still in isolation (mainly returned travellers), two still in hospital and four deaths.
The Bowral Hospital Flu Assessment Clinic
The cliniccontinues to operate seven days a week out of the hospital's outpatient department.
This is planned to continue for several more months.
Hours of Business:
- Weekdays - 10am to 5.30pm
- Weekends - 10:30am to 3pm
- Phone Number - 4861 014.
People do not require a referral from their GP to attend the BDH Flu Assessment Clinic.
The direct phone number for the flu clinic is 4861 0145 and enquiries will be answered during hours of operation only.
If you have any respiratory symptoms - even if you think it is just a cold - please get tested. You need to ring the Clinic on 4861 0145 to organise your time to come to the clinic.
Results are usually available in about 24 hours.
The Commonwealth-funded General Practice Respiratory Clinicis located in the lower level of Mittagong HealthCare Centre, 58 Bowral Road, Mittagong.
It is open 9am to 5pm seven days a week.
The clinics are designed to assess patients with mild-to-moderate respiratory symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough, tiredness and shortness of breath.
Regardless of whether COVID-19 testing is indicated, or a specimen is taken, the patient will receive clinical guidance about managing their respiratory symptoms through the clinic.
Patients must have an appointment before attending the clinic.
Referring GPs will receive a copy of the pathology results.
Bowral and District Hospital Update:
- Outpatient Services: The Outpatient Department is currently being used for the Flu Assessment Clinic, so Outpatients Activity has been suspended for the last three months. We hope to move the Flu Clinic soon to a different site, then the normal outpatient services will recommence. We will still need to manage social distancing requirements which will be a challenge given our waiting areas. The use of telehealth will continue to be used where appropriate.
- Elective Surgery: with the wind down of elective surgery over the last 3 months there has been a significant deterioration of overdue elective surgery cases. This is mainly for Category C patients ( 365 days) in ophthalmology and orthopaedics. Over the next month the hospital will be moving back to normal levels of surgery. However this will not be adequate to catch up on the existing overdue patients. The hospital has already engaged the Southern Highlands Private Hospital (SHPH) to undertake around 60 cataract cases to assist with catching up. Over the next few months the SHPH will be further engaged to take on orthopaedics as well. There are also significant overdue patients awaiting medical scope procedures and options are currently being considered to provide additional lists to reduce these overdue cases.
- New Hospital. It is great news that work on the new hospital has been largely unaffected by COVID. Work is on track for the hospital to be completed late this year and we hope to move in before Christmas. This will be confirmed over the next few months. Planning is about to commence on the $55 million stage 2 of the redevelopment. This will look at new accommodation for services provided from the Watson building eg Allied Health, Cardiac Assessment Unit etc as well as Pathology, the Mortuary and a new 6 chair Dialysis Service.
Southern Highlands Private Hospital Update:
- Ramsay Healthcare has announced that they will be resuming elective surgery at 100% capacity from the beginning of July. SHPH (along with most private hospitals) has had greatly reduced surgical activity due to concerns about hospital and ICU capacity, Personal Protective Equipment capacity and workforce concerns since the onset of the pandemic in NSW in March.
- SHPH have been contracted to assist with waiting list reduction at Bowral and District Public Hospital especially in Opthalmology and Orthopaedics over the next few months.
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