Qld border ban sparks medical emergency
Premier Annastacia Paluszczuk's sudden second border shutdown has created chaos in health care, as anguished patients in northern NSW are shut out of operations and specialists' consultations.
The closure has left no provision for specialist medical care for hundreds of thousands of people living between the extended Queensland "bubble" border and Yamba.
Major towns including Lismore, Grafton, Ballina, Byron Bay on the coast and across into regional areas like Casino, Glen Innes, Inverell and Moree are left with threadbare specialist services.
Specialist doctors from Queensland who have patients and clinics in NSW have had to cancel regular clinics south of the "bubble" - leaving patients high and dry.
If they travel, they cannot return to Queensland and see patients, due to the whole of NSW being deemed a hotspot by Ms Paluszczuk - despite the fact there are no COVID-19 clusters north of Newcastle, hundreds of kilometres to the south.
"When the news came through about the border closing to NSW last Wednesday I immediately applied for an exemption. I have not received a response. The staff in the call centre cannot escalate anything it is up to the CHO who is completely uncontactable," a Queensland specialist said.
"I have emailed the Premier, Health Minister and CHO through an email address I found online."
Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish announced yesterday that a substantial number of health care workers had been impacted by the sudden border closure. Mr McTavish confirmed many Queensland workers regularly travelled to northern NSW to work and he was working to try to resolve the situation.
The Queensland specialist, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was concerned about sick adults and children from NSW who needed treatment in Queensland. The Queensland Health website says people can enter the state for medical care but must self-fund quarantine for 14 days in a hotel, unless they too have an exemption pass.
The department's Facebook page confirms that they are experiencing a high volume of enquiries in relation to public health.
Plastic surgeon Dr Dilip Gahankari of the Gold Coast's Pindara Hospital said that two patients were forced to cancel for skin cancer surgery on Wednesday.
"My practice manager spent a lot of time trying to get exemptions but was unable too."
Advice from Queensland Health is that people booked for surgery or even consultations have to undergo 14 days quarantine - at their own expense.
Claims lawyer Elizabeth Medland, from Clunes in the Byron Bay hinterland, gave birth to twins on July 1 at the Gold Coast.
"I had a serious post-partum haemorrhage following my Caesarian and was in hospital for a week," Ms Medland said. "My twins were born small and spent a week in special care nursery." Her babies are due for their first paediatric check-up since leaving hospital - a crucial appointment - on August 21. "I'm also due for my first obstetrician appointment following the birth the same day. I can't attend the appointments because of the restrictions," she said.
A Queensland Health spokeswoman said it understood people who live close to the border may need to access Queensland for certain services, which is why dedicated border zones were established.
"NSW residents outside the dedicated border zone coming to Queensland for specialist medical care do not require an exemption but they must have a border pass and written support from their treating facility," she said. "The exemption specifically cites children coming from NSW for specialist treatment ... as appropriate. It is already occurring."
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said the border closure was "the best way to protect Queenslanders" from a second wave.
"Cases of community transmission have been on the rise in NSW. I don't want to see that here," Mr Miles said.
"Even though our border rules are strict, people requiring specialist medical care can still receive it."
Originally published as Qld border ban sparks medical emergency