Wimmera Health Care Group management is pleading for calm in the community after the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Horsham Rural City had two new COVID-19 cases.
WHCG CEO Catherine Morley said the hospital and Covid Assessment Clinic team members were being overwhelmed with calls from a panicked community.
“We understand the growing anxiety in the community but there are rules in place to protect everyone and if people follow the rules, they can feel safe,” Ms Morley said.
“The increased number of cases in Victoria has placed a heavy burden on hospitals and testing clinics across the state,” she said.
“WHCG is working closely with DHHS to manage this situation in our region and remain committed to protecting our community.”
Ms Morley said people are turning up at ED and the assessment clinic wanting to be tested because they believe they might have been in contact with a COVID patient.
“We have no authority to test asymptomatic people without a direct referral from DHHS,” she said.
“All these people are doing by presenting at the clinic is putting themselves and others at further risk.
“If anyone is concerned that they have been in contact with COVID-19, they should isolate at home for 14 days.
“Once the DHHS has completed contact tracing, they will make direct contact with anyone who will need testing and provide them with an official permission letter.
“That will be the time to contact your nearest assessment clinic.”
WHCG Infection Control nurse Kathryn Summerhayes encouraged the Wimmera community to download the COVID safe app immediately.
“That’s the most useful thing community members can do right now because it will assist DHHS with contact tracing in a timely manner,” Ms Summerhayes said.
“The recent increased demand has slowed the contact tracing process significantly and there is currently a 3-5 day delay,’ she said.
“The DHHS is working on a solution and we would appreciate everyone’s patience at this time.”
Ms Summerhayes said anyone in close contact of a confirmed case would be contacted directly by DHHS.
“You will need to self-isolate and if you do not have any symptoms you will not need to be tested until officially notified by the DHHS,” she said.
“Being tested earlier will not clear you from isolation any sooner.”
Anyone who develops symptoms regardless of exposure or travel should contact the COVID hotline and/or make an appointment for testing at a respiratory assessment clinic.
“We will not being testing asymptomatic people without an official letter from DHHS as this would also cause further delays,” Ms Summerhayes said.
“Our priority is testing people with symptoms and those notified officially so we have the results needed to manage this situation efficiently.”
Ms Morley asked the community to trust the process.
“We have looked after positive cases at the start of the pandemic and we did it well,” she said.
“The community also did the right thing and that is why we were successful with more than three months between cases.
“So the community needs to remember to keep doing the right things and follow the guidelines so we can keep everyone safe once more.”
WHCG’s Covid-19 Assessment Clinic will continue to be available daily by appointment on 5362 3474. If you believe you may have been in contact with a COVID patient, phone the Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
Make sure you get the COVID app on your smartphone to help with contact tracing.
We encourage everyone to be vigilant with hand hygiene and physical distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID 19. Be considerate of vulnerable people in our community and stay home if you feel at all unwell.
For more information regarding getting tested click link https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/getting-tested-coronavirus-covid-19#should-i-get-tested
Or contact the COVID helpline 1800675398.
What is a confirmed case?
A confirmed case is someone who tests positive for COVID 19.
What is a close contact?
Close contact means having face to face contact for more than 15 minutes or sharing a closed space for more than two hours with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID 19) while they were infectious.