Hundreds of Ipswich Hospital staff in quarantine over COVID-19 fears

Hundreds of staff at a busy hospital west of Brisbane are in quarantine, awaiting COVID-19 results after a fifth case, connected to the cluster tested positive to the virus.

The Ipswich Hospital healthcare worker in her 30s was already in quarantine. She is one of two new cases confirmed on Monday.

The other is a woman in her 20s and is a household contact of a known case who had already been in quarantine.

There are now five cases linked the hospital. Director General Dr John Wakefield said all five have contracted the virus from either working in the hospital’s COVID unit or had been identified as close contacts.

“The link is direct,” Dr Wakefield said.

At Ipswich Hospital, 220 staff were placed in quarantine over the weekend.

The hospital will remain open for emergency, but other appointments have been relocated or delayed until staff complete their quarantine.

Dr Wakefield said all non-urgent elective surgery had been rescheduled this week, with nearby Hospital and Health Services stepping up to support patients impacted.

“These are not urgent, low priority electives but they are important for the patient,” he said.

“We have also mobilised other large health services, especially Metro South and Metro North to provide support should there be further cases and a need to quarantine more staff, that can be done swiftly … so that we can maintain services.

“It would not be fair for the patients in West Moreton to suffer less access to services while other services are going full pelt on elective services.”

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Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the sacrifices of the state’s health workers was not going unnoticed.

“This is a difficult time for our healthcare workers and I’m extraordinarily grateful to every single one of them for the care they’re providing day-in, day-out at risk to themselves and their families,” she said.

The nurse was one of two people to test positive on Sunday, the other being a sister of a previously infected Staines Memorial College student.

Meanwhile on Russell Island, thousands of residents are being cautioned to monitor for symptoms after an infected woman visited the island, off Brisbane.

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“It is really important for the next week at least that anyone on Russell Island who develops any symptoms at all come forward and get tested,” Dr Young said.

It comes as 50 Queensland paramedics will be trained to set up pop-up fever clinics and quickly test following a community outbreak of COVID-19.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said paramedics would assist with testing to make it “more convenient” for the public.

“We’ve learned throughout this metropolitan outbreak that we need a greater and more flexible ability to stand up more fever clinics quickly and do more testing quickly,” Mr Miles said.

The state’s pharmacy union has called on the Queensland Government to scrap their plans to set up COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies, over fears they would turn into “COVID petri dishes”.

Queensland Director of Professional Pharmacists Australia Adam Kerslake said the union and medical bodies had been trying to convince the state government to change its mind “for weeks” but the pleas had fallen on deaf ears.

“The Government’s proposal is dangerous for pharmacists and dangerous for the community,” Mr Kerslake said.

“It could turn pharmacies into COVID petri dishes and result in the pandemic sweeping across the community.

“Our advice to the community is that if this testing rolls out, stay away from pharmacies until the Government changes its – it’s not safe.

“If this isn’t managed correctly, pharmacies will turn into COVID hot spots, spreading infection like wildfire across the state.”

Mr Miles said that wasn’t an accurate representation of what Queensland pharmacists want.

“They’re the ones who came to us and said they would like to do this,” he said.

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