Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Ms COURTNEY
The north-west COVID-19 outbreak has been devastating for the families of people who died and hugely affected the 5000 people who went into quarantine, as well as north-west businesses and customers who were locked out of trade. It is not every day that two hospitals are closed and the army is brought in to clean them. With Tasmania now on the cusp of easing some social movement restrictions, it is more important than ever that we have 100 per cent confidence in our ability to quash a COVID-19 cluster before it becomes a tearaway outbreak.
The Director of Public Health handed you a report with 17 urgent recommendations that need to be implemented to prevent another outbreak. These include systems to ensure education for staff, consistent infection control standards and protocols around moving patients and staff. I recognise there has been acceptance by you of the report and conversations about progressing actions. While the easing of restriction is being actively considered, Tasmanians need reassurance that hospitals can respond effectively should a COVID-19 cluster bubble up, as the Premier has just said, in another place. Can you please tell us when you will be providing the time line of delivery dates for each of the specific 17 recommended actions?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I also pass my deepest sympathies to the friends and families of those people who have been lost in this outbreak, and also my best to that community and the healthcare workers at those hospitals. I know it has been a very stressful time and many of those staff have worked incredibly hard and are continuing to work very hard to get the full operation of that hospital back up and running.
Regarding the recommendations, as has been outlined by the Premier, the secretary is currently working through an implementation plan for each of those. Implementation of many has already been started, or we have plans around how we can implement them. I note that we have a very large THS within Tasmania and we also have quite different sites. Having spoken to many of the managers at the different sites, the way we implement each of those recommendations will need to be bespoke for those sites. While we want to have a consistent approach, for example, around screening of staff and other patients coming into sites, the way we do that at the LGH will be very different from the way we do that at Beaconsfield or at Queenstown. We need to work with local leadership to ensure that the measures we implement have the infection control outcomes for each of those.
I know the member received a briefing this morning from the secretary of the department and I understand that the recommendations were discussed in detail. I fully commit to implementing each of those. Once I have received an implementation plan I will be better placed to provide the time lines we are working to. I reassure the member, and other members of the House, that I am not awaiting that plan before measures are starting to be implemented and already have been implemented.
We know we are still in the early stages of coronavirus and the impact it is going to have on our health system, so while we continue to progress planning for escalation on each of our sites across the system, these recommendations are being further embedded into those escalation plans to ensure they are there. We are working to ensure that these are also applicable to all healthcare workers and all staff on these sites because we know they are high-risk locations. I can assure the member and the House that this is an extraordinarily high priority of mine and the secretary's.
When I have further information - and hopefully I will in coming days - to provide an update, I will do that. I can assure members that I will get these implemented as quickly as possible, noting that many of them need a lot of preparatory work to ensure this is not a tick-a-box exercise. I want these measures to be implemented in a way that has meaningful infection control outcomes.