DOCTOR SAYS WE ARE NOT READY
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.