Cairns Hospital
Cairns Hospital

‘Last thing we want is outbreak’: Staff screening ramped up

CAIRNS Hospital staff are being warned "60 times a day" to report illness and practice good hygiene as part of extreme measures to prevent further internal spread of COVID-19.

All staff will now be screened before starting work, including temperature checks, after a further three laboratory staff were found to have previously had the virus through a new "serology" test.

It followed a colleague in the lab testing positive to COVID-19 last week with all four believed to have contracted it from a Brisbane staff member who visited Cairns Hospital.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy in front of the Cairns Hospital. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Member for Cairns Michael Healy in front of the Cairns Hospital. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Cairns MP Michael Healy said all but 10 of the 257 contacts to the group had been traced and tested with 112 coming back negative to date.

He said a potential outbreak in the hospital would be a "huge concern".

"But let's hope that's not the case," he said.

"The last thing we want to see at any stage is an outbreak, particularly at a hospital where there are vulnerable people.

"Everyone working at the hospital knows if they have any symptoms … they are told 60 times a day what to do, where to go, wash your hands."

Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Dr Jeannette Young, Speaker's Green, Queensland's Parliament House. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Dr Jeannette Young, Speaker's Green, Queensland's Parliament House. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young urged any Cairns residents with symptoms of coronavirus to get tested immediately.

"It's very important that across the whole community in Cairns that anyone who is unwell with any respiratory symptoms - cough, sore throat or shortness of breath - that you immediately go to see your own GP or go to the fever clinic," she said.

"We want to make sure we don't have any ongoing community spread in Cairns."

Dr Young said Cairns Hospital staff were being screened as a precaution.

"The three Cairns Hospital employees who tested positive for COVID-19 had mild or no symptoms and did not realise they had the disease, which is why they did not get tested. As a precaution, they have been placed in self-quarantine, even though they are not feeling unwell or likely to be infectious," she said.

"As a further precaution, Cairns Hospital is starting to screen all staff working from today to determine if there has been wider transmission. If anyone says they have symptoms or have had symptoms since March 19, they will be referred to the fever clinic for testing. Contact tracing is also continuing.

"It's important to understand that there is a low risk of further transmission but we need to make every effort possible to ensure this disease does not spread further."

In a memo issued to hospital staff yesterday medical services executive director Dr Don Mackie said the chances of further transmission were "very low" but an all-staff screening process was being brought in as a precaution.

"We are taking this very precautionary measure to help eliminate any possible transmission and to reassure our staff and community that we are taking this incredibly seriously," he said.

"I also want to reassure our patients and community that Cairns Hospital remains open and it is safe to come to and receive care."

He said despite a previous message saying all staff would be tested for COVID-19, this was not required and tests would only be performed on those flagged during screening.

"This approach has been confirmed by the chief health officer," he said.

Cairns Hospital has put in place new safeguards to prevent the spread of coronavirus after another 4 pathology workers tested positive to COVID-19 testing. Farida Cooper has been staying with her daughter Yasmin Mirshafiei at the Cairns hospital. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Cairns Hospital has put in place new safeguards to prevent the spread of coronavirus after another 4 pathology workers tested positive to COVID-19 testing. Farida Cooper has been staying with her daughter Yasmin Mirshafiei at the Cairns hospital. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Cairns mum Ferida Cooper, whose 16-year-old daughter Yasmin Mirshafiei is in Cairns Hospital awaiting her second surgery after a cut on her foot became infected, said she was not concerned about the virus.

"As a mother my first priority is to get her well. There is always a certain amount of risk in anything you do," she said. "I'm not thinking of the virus, I just want her to get better."

She said her daughter, a Year 12 student at St Monica's, was due to start home schooling this week, but injured her foot while hiking.

 

Bob Katter speaks to the media about closing NQ borders. Picture: Caitlan Charles
Bob Katter speaks to the media about closing NQ borders. Picture: Caitlan Charles

KATTER SLAMS QUEENSLAND HEALTH

THE transmission of COVID-19 from a Brisbane health worker visiting Cairns Hospital has raised the ire of Kennedy MP Bob Katter who had previously called for North Queensland to be locked down.

"Not only has Queensland Health refused to protect North Queensland, but they are in fact the body that has infected North Queensland," Mr Katter said yesterday.

"We would have been coronavirus free by the end of this week except the Health Department itself infected us with the contagion.

"People should not be travelling from high contagion areas to clean areas.

"It is now a gross irresponsibility on behalf of the Premier."

Originally published as 'Last thing we want is outbreak': Hospital staff screening ramped up