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COVID-19 (coronavirus) preparedness on North Coast

Northern NSW Local Health District and North Coast Primary Health Network are working in partnership to ensure we have an appropriate and effective health response to the impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

This includes:

• regular daily briefings at the state and local level

• sharing information with primary health providers and providing advice and support around testing and ongoing monitoring

• our Public Health Unit monitoring and following up suspected cases, contacting close contacts if required, and

• cross-border collaboration with our Queensland Health counterparts.

Hospital preparedness

COVID-19/flu clinics are established at Lismore Base Hospital and The Tweed Hospital. The purpose of these clinics is for people who have respiratory symptoms or fever and who are at risk of COVID-19, for example because they were in contact with a COVID-19 case, or have returned from overseas in the 14 days before onset of symptoms.

The clinics are open from 10am to 6pm seven days a week at this stage. People do not need to call ahead to attend these clinics, but if attending an Emergency Department outside these hours, or attending your GP, please phone ahead. As with other public hospitals in NSW, we are arranging to double the ICU capacity in hospitals in Northern NSW and to prepare for a significant increase in respiratory presentations to Emergency Department.

All our facilities are planning for a potential increase in presentations of people with respiratory illness over the coming weeks and months, and we’re working with NSW Health to maximise available critical care resources.

We have not cancelled elective surgery, but are reviewing the need to bring some cases forward, particularly those which may require Intensive Care support, in light of the expected increase in demand for ICU services in the coming weeks. We’ll continue to monitor our elective surgery lists and make decisions based on the best advice and forward planning scenarios.

We are holding regular weekly staff forums to update staff and clinicians on the latest information and health precautions, and providing additional updates as the situation unfolds.

We are providing support to staff in our health facilities, ensuring they follow appropriate infection control measures, hand hygiene and appropriate use of personal protective equipment (including masks) in addition to standard precautions. We are providing information and support to staff in forward planning and managing any leave issues that may arise.

We are exploring opportunities to source additional and back up staff, in the event that more health workers are required to assist with medical and nursing care. Public health measures, such as early case identification and contact tracing, are designed to limit the impact of epidemics and pandemics, by flattening the curve of peak case numbers and lessen the number of people requiring health care during periods of highest demand.

We encourage members of the public to continue with hand-washing and social distancing, and to remain alert to any changing advice from health authorities. The health response is evolving as the situation unfolds, and as more is learnt about COVID-19. The NSW Health website contains the most up to date information for the public and health professionals.

You can also call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

Wayne Jones,
Chief Executive, Northern NSW Local Health District