April 21, 2020 16:51:51

Western Australia recorded one new case of COVID-19 overnight, bringing the state’s total to 546, as authorities reveal which patients will be prioritised when elective surgery resumes in the state next week.

Key points:

  • Active COVID-19 cases in WA have dropped to 96 as patients recover
  • Elective surgeries are to resume, but it will be gradual and on a priority basis
  • First up will be those who had surgery cancelled as a result of COVID-19

Health Minister Roger Cook confirmed the new case was a female healthcare worker from Royal Perth Hospital.

“She did not attend work with symptoms and contact tracing will ensure all close contacts are notified,” Mr Cook said.

The total number of active cases in WA has dropped to 96, with eight more recoveries overnight.

It brings the state’s total recoveries to 443 with 50 of those from regional WA.

There are 26 patients with COVID-19 in Perth metropolitan hospitals, five of those are in intensive care.

A total of 29,566 West Australians have tested negative for the virus.

Elective surgery to resume next week

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed National Cabinet has agreed to a “gradual restart” of elective surgery after the Anzac Day weekend.

Mr Cook said the elective surgery priorities in WA would include patients who have had their surgery cancelled as a result of COVID-19 and more serious procedures classified as category two.

“We will also prioritise according to the nationally agreed lists of the following procedures, which include paediatrics, endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures and other category twos — breast screening and some dentistry,” he said.

Mr Cook said people who had their surgery postponed would be contacted and advised on a new date “as soon as practical and possible”.

He urged the patients and their families not to contact their hospital in the meantime.

“Priority will be given on the basis of clinical need,” Mr Cook said.

“It doesn’t help anyone if our public hospital switchboards are flooded with calls. In fact, it may delay their ability to contact patients in a timely fashion.

“Any changes to our current situation would need to take into account the impact on our ICU [intensive care unit] capacity, the risk to public health and of course the availability and continued supply of PPE [personal protection equipment].”

Mr Cook said the resumption of any elective surgery was a recognition of the community effort to slow the spread of the virus and would be reviewed every three weeks.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the final decision about how the restart of elective surgery would be managed would be made at a state disaster council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

He said it was likely to include the “more serious end” of elective surgeries.

“It won’t be a full resumption, but it will be a partial resumption of elective surgeries, certain specific surgeries which are the more serious ones,” Mr McGowan said.

Elective surgery to resume from Tuesday

Department of Health director general David Russell-Weisz said hospitals and clinicians would prioritise the most urgent cancelled surgeries.

“This is an incremental start. We have to balance this increasing elective surgery with making sure we keep our ward and ICU capacity as free as possible for any COVID increase,” Dr Russell-Weisz said.

He said health providers would be issued with guidelines tomorrow and selected patients would be contacted this week for surgeries to commence on Tuesday next week.

“There has been a backlog built up, but look, over this period we will clear the most urgent,” Dr Russell-Weisz said.

“And depending on how we go with our COVID numbers … we’ll try and increase further.

“We don’t want any patient … waiting for longer than they should do.”

He said the state would need to see a prolonged increase of COVID-19 cases in WA for elective surgery to be wound back again.

“We would look at where the spikes were coming from. If they were coming from one area we might potentially reduce elective surgery in that area,” he said

“If they were just generically coming across WA we may not reduce.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Don’t ban aged care visitors: McGowan

National Cabinet also discussed the issue of isolated residents in aged care homes and state restrictions going over and above what the Federal Government had recommended.

Mr McGowan said he was concerned some aged care facilities had told families they could not visit their elderly relatives.

“That is not the rule, the rule is that people should be able to visit old people in aged care facilities, subject to certain rules,” he said.

“It’s not a ban on people visiting. For those who have parents in an aged care facility, not to be able to see them in their last months or years of life is devastating.

“We’re saying to the aged care industry, don’t ban people. Apply the rules that allow people to visit.”

Regional testing fast-tracked

Mr Cook announced COVID-19 testing would be fast-tracked in some regional areas with the introduction of equipment that produced a result in less than an hour.

The first machines would become operational in Broome, Kalgoorlie and Geraldton in the coming weeks.

“This means people in the regions who are working in high-risk environments, like health and aged care workers and police officers, can receive their results quicker, so if they test negative we can get them … back on the front line much sooner,” Mr Cook said.

“These machines will also be used to fast-track results for those who are acutely unwell in our regional hospitals, so that we can provide the appropriate setting for their ongoing care.”

He said the machines were also being considered for Port Hedland, Albany and Esperance.

Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?

  • People who have EITHER a fever of 38 degrees Celsius OR acute respiratory infection
  • Symptoms to look out for include fever, shortness of breath, cough or sore throat
  • Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.

Major clinics have been set up at Perth hospitals including Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner, Fiona Stanley, Joondalup, Armadale, Rockingham and St John of God Midland.
They are open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In Southern WA a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
In Northern WA a clinic is operating at Broome Hospital from 8:30am–4:00pm daily.
Outside these areas, people with symptoms should present to their local hospital.
For more information go to the Health Department website.

Mr Cook said the consistently low number of infections was incredibly encouraging.

“And I thank all Western Australians for what they are doing as their part in the fight against the virus,” he said.

“We are all in this together and together we will get through.

“But as I said yesterday, our work here is not done.

“Everyone playing their part has brought us time, precious time to prepare, plan and get ready for the fight against COVID-19.

What you need to know about coronavirus:












First posted

April 21, 2020 14:54:47

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