North-West COVID-19 outbreak report released

The release of the independent review into the outbreak of COVID-19 in the states North West was welcomed by the Minister for Health, Sarah Courtney.

“I acknowledge that Tasmanians, and especially our health staff and those living in the North West, have a strong interest in understanding what happened in the North West outbreak earlier this year.”

“Nothing is more important to the Tasmanian Liberal Government than the safety of our staff and patients, and we are determined to ensure that our health system is as prepared as possible.”

The North West Outbreak occurred at a stage in the pandemic when there was very little experience in managing COVID-19, so this independent review is vital to the Tasmanian community’s understanding of this event.

“I thank the health staff and senior management for their input into this process. In particular, I thank the State Health Commander for the incredible amount of work she has done. The report notes that it is of great credit to the State’s emergency management system, the Department of Health, and the many dedicated people who worked long hours, that the outbreak was successfully contained, and I know that the leadership of Kathrine Morgan-Wicks was a significant factor in this outcome.”

“We have accepted the Review’s recommendations, either fully or in-principle, and I look forward to working with staff across our health system to implement them.”

The Department of Health has commenced working on an implementation plan, noting that action has already been taken against a range of the recommendations and, considering we are still in a state of Public Health Emergency, it is expected some of the recommendations will be addressed as part of the broader Emergency Management review, post pandemic.

The report included a number of recommendations which Sarah Courtney stated the Government acted quickly to implement.

Some of the recommendations were as follows:

•    The commencement of the first ever Infectious Diseases specialist for the North West, with recruitment underway for additional registered nurses for educational and support roles;
•    The commencement of a dedicated WH&S Clinical Nurse Educator in the first week of August 2020; 
•    The recruitment of two dedicated Infection Control Nurses;
•    The development of new training in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and contact tracing;
•    A new Outbreak Management Plan;
•    The implementation of stronger screening processes in our hospitals;
•    Improved auditing of Infection Prevention and Control;
•    New patient transfer protocols implemented in our hospitals and Ambulance Tasmania; 
•    A new staff wellbeing program; and
•    Improved communication processes to ensure that staff are well informed of emerging issues and the status of COVID-19 activity across the State.

“The Government is committed to ensuring we learn the lessons from the North West outbreak, and we will share these across our health system so that we can all continue to work to do our best to avoid similar outbreaks in the future.”

“I thank our brave, hardworking frontline staff who are continuing to do an unbelievable job caring for and supporting Tasmanians during the pandemic. I also acknowledge the broader North West community for their outstanding efforts to ensure the outbreak was contained.”

“Finally, I would like to express my condolences to the families and friends of those who died as a result of this outbreak. “

The full report can be found here

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