South Western Times - - Front Page - Warren Hately and Shannon Ver­ha­gen

Doc­tors at Bun­bury Hospi­tal are “dra­mat­i­cally and rapidly” ex­pand­ing its ca­pac­ity to deal with an ex­pected in­flux of coro­n­avirus pa­tients in the next week, ac­cord­ing to a med­i­cal spe­cial­ist on staff.

Four new cases were con­firmed yes­ter­day, bring­ing the South West’s tally to six, but there are fears that as that num­ber rises, there will not be enough ven­ti­la­tors or personal pro­tec­tive equip­ment in the re­gion to cope.

A lo­cal GP has also ex­pressed “ma­jor con­cerns” that there were peo­ple in Bun­bury who ex­hib­ited all of the signs of the virus but could not be tested as they did not fit the Govern­ment’s cri­te­ria.

Bun­bury Med­i­cal Cen­tre’s Dr Bren­dan O’Dea said if com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion was oc­cur­ring there was “no way to check” and it had left doc­tors feel­ing “un­easy”.

A med­i­cal spe­cial­ist speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity told the Times a se­nior man­age­ment team of doc­tors had taken on pan­demic plan­ning on Mon­day, as front­line per­son­nel pre­pared for the worst.

“The mea­sures we’re putting in lo­cally will help,” he said.

“We’ve got a good firm plan to pro­tect the com­mu­nity and the hospi­tal is un­der good leadership now.

“There’s go­ing to be a huge toll. “The big­gest hur­dle we have at the mo­ment is we are hav­ing trou­ble ac­quir­ing the ad­e­quate pro­tec­tive gear be­cause of all the peo­ple buy­ing it up at Bun­nings.

“I might be at the point where I can’t go to work be­cause there’s not enough gear to pro­tect doc­tors do­ing their work,” he said.

“We’re go­ing to run out in a month. There’s not enough ven­ti­la­tors.”

The doc­tor also said all avail­able per­son­nel were un­der­go­ing train­ing for jobs nor­mally out­side of their du­ties.

“At this stage we’re do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to ramp up our ca­pac­ity and train and up­skill all the other doc­tors and nurses so they will be able to do this kind of work,” he said.

Doc­tors begged res­i­dents to stop hoard­ing pro­tec­tive gear be­cause it en­dan­gered the hospi­tal’s abil­ity to treat loved ones once COVID-19 spread in the South West.

Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion WA pres­i­dent An­drew Miller has warned re­gional hos­pi­tals were un­der-equipped to deal with any in­flux, but Tuesday’s turn­around meant pa­tients re­quir­ing in­ten­sive care would be ac­com­mo­dated in Bun­bury.

Dr Miller slammed the lack of dis­clo­sure from WA’s Health Department which was only stok­ing pub­lic fears.

“We’ve called on the Govern­ment to give us a full and frank brief­ing on re­gional, re­mote and city op­er­a­tions,” he said.

“They’re in the midst of the big­gest cri­sis in our life­times — we’re all in the dark on the sit­u­a­tion.”

Bun­bury had seen only a small num­ber of res­i­dents with COVID-19 symp­toms, but Dr Miller said test­ing re­mained in­ad­e­quate.

The un­named spe­cial­ist doc­tor said he and other front­line work­ers were look­ing at six months without see­ing their own families.

“I feel like a front­line sol­dier and I’m go­ing to be lead­ing a bunch of peo­ple for a bat­tle we’re not pre­pared for and without the equip­ment we need,” he said.

“It’s like send­ing a fire­fighter to fight a fire with a gar­den hose and no res­pi­ra­tor.”

Bun­bury Hospi­tal has can­celled elec­tive surgery and drafted all pro­fes­sion­als into pre­par­ing for COVID-19 cases.

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