WA COVID-19 close contact rules leave hospital workers confused after Perth hospital case

The head of the WA Nursing Association has again called on the state government to postpone the opening of the border after what he said had been confusing advice given to healthcare professionals who recently came in contact with a COVID-positive patient.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson revealed that a dozen employees at a hospital in Perth were in isolation after being in contact with a man infected with COVID-19.

Ms Sanderson said the man in his 60s had visited Fiona Stanley Hospital’s emergency room Monday night while ill, with about 12 employees identified as close contacts.

Under current protocols, staff would be required to isolate themselves for 14 days, but Mrs Sanderson said yesterday that they would be assessed on a case-by-case basis to see if they could return to work earlier, provided they tested negative for the virus.

Trade union says staff have received ‘conflicting advice’

However, State Secretary of the Australian Nursing Association Mark Olson said staff had been receiving a number of conflicting advice since Monday.

Australian Nursing Federation Secretary of State Mark Olsen gestures lively at a rostrum
Australian Nursing Federation Secretary of State Mark Olsen says WA Health has admitted that what the state government described as “the biggest recruitment campaign for nurses in WA’s history” is not even in the development stage. August 6, 2021. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

“Staff were initially contacted by Fiona Stanley’s infection prevention team and told that they were moderate contacts and they would have to isolate themselves for two days, receive a test on day two and, if negative, return to work,” he said. he.

“Then they received no less than four phone calls from WA Health, all with different instructions on each phone call.

In the last call, it was decided that a PCR test was required immediately and the workers had to isolate until the results of this cotton swab were returned, Olson said.

He said, after these phone discussions, staff members had become determined to be casual contacts.

Switch from random to close contact without explanation

But Mr Olson said the council changed again without any explanation.

“After their negative swab results, which were returned yesterday, they then received another phone call from WA Health, which they now have to isolate for 14 days,” Olson said.

“It was now established that they were close contacts.

“WA Health was unable to explain to staff why they had been recategorized from random contact to close contact.

“No one has been able to explain it to them even though they were wearing full PPE in that area according to the instructions.”

Outside the hospital, with emergency
The staff came in contact with the man when he visited Fiona Stanley Hospital’s emergency department.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Olson said staff had now been told they should isolate themselves in their homes for 14 days and not be allowed to leave their homes, but were allowed to return to work on day eight in full PPE.

Olson says WA is confusing ‘not ready to open’

Olson said he felt the lack of clarity along with changing advice around this situation was proof that the state was far from ready to open.


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