Staff are ready at the entrance to the Wonthaggi Hospital to triage all those arriving for COVID-19 testing, and other would-be in-patients and visitors, to maintain the high-safety and security standards established by Bass Coast Health.

IF YOU have even the mildest of symptoms associated with coronavirus; including but not limited to fever, breathing difficulties, breathlessness, cough, sore throat, fatigue or tiredness; you should get tested.

Add to that any healthcare and aged care workers, construction workers, supermarket workers and agricultural workers who are also being urged to come forward and you’ve got a significantly wider pool of people that can be ruled in or out.

It’s all about the State Government’s goal to blitz 100,000 Victorians, or more, in the next two weeks, ahead of a significant wind back in isolation restrictions.

But only, according to Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child, if we achieve that lofty testing goal and come up overwhelmingly negative.

Everyone is being asked to pitch in and BCH is leading the way locally.

“We’ve got the Phillip Island Health Hub staffed 24/7 and it’s probably a better option to go up there after hours. You’ll be seen more quickly outside their regular hours,” Ms Child said.

“At Wonthaggi Hospital we’ve had a real influx lately and we’re encouraging anyone who wants to get tested to come in.

“If they’re sick, they’ll go straight into the Emergency Department where we’ve got separation from any cardiac and stroke patients.

“We also have our assessment and testing clinic set up inside the hospital which has been operating since the beginning.

“And this week, we opened up a new portable hut at the front of the hospital which will exclusively be handling testing, seven days-a-week from 8am-6pm.

“Those coming in to be tested will come into the front of the hospital where we have a doctor and senior staff to direct everyone to where they need to go.

“If they are directed to the portable, they can go and wait in their car again until they receive a test message to come in.

Ms Child said expected numbers of COVID-19 patients had not materialised, allowing time for training and a restructure of services but before the theatres could be returned to procedures and other services returned to normal, there needed to be a better understanding of the COVID-19 impact in the community.

“The more people we test, the sooner we can start to get back to normal,” Ms Child said, while also stressing the need to observe social distancing and ‘stay at home’ rules until the real picture became clearer.

Additional testing clinics will also be opened at the Wonthaggi Medical Group and also at the Foster Medical Centre; both of which had received test funding from the Commonwealth Government through the Primary Health Care Partnership.

These two clinics will ne strictly by appointment only.

“We’re talking about reopening surgery but at the moment we’re set up for COVID-19 patients. We won’t move over until we have an alternative service in place, one with the proper airflow separation for example and we’re still a few weeks away for that.”

But it all comes down to the testing.

“We want to do more testing locally to establish what the situation is here before we can start returning to normal.

Ms Child said obstetrics and baby arrivals had been successfully moved to Foster but with the expected COVID-19 escalation not occurring, BCH could look at resuming those services as well.

“All our other services including our cancer clinic, dialysis, cardiac, stroke etc has been continuing.

“We’re also looking at bringing back dental as well.”

Again, though, it all depends on the tested – so the new rule is “get tested” and BCH stands ready to test you – day and night.

Get tested and we’re free!

The Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos yesterday announced the massive expansion of testing, which will help inform decisions about slowly lifting restrictions, ahead of the State of Emergency being reviewed on May 11.

The testing blitz will be carried out through a combination of drive-through and walk-up clinics, as well as new mobile screening clinics to visit homes and workplaces.

There are already 43 specialist sites across Victoria where testing can be undertaken, with more testing clinics to be opened during the week, including in the Gippsland and Northern Loddon areas, to allow for more testing in regional and rural areas.

Victorians have done a remarkable job in sticking to the coronavirus restrictions, and by staying home we have saved lives.

“We are now asking Victorians to again play their part by getting tested because the more testing we do, the more data we have about the prevalence of coronavirus in our community,” said Mr Andrews.

“We’ve asked a lot of Victorians, but the plan we put in place to slow the spread of this virus is working. And if we keep working together and keep doing the right thing, we will get to the other side of this crisis.”

Common symptoms of coronavirus are fever, breathing difficulties, breathlessness, cough, sore throat, fatigue or tiredness. Anyone who has any symptoms, no matter how mild, such as a runny nose or scratchy throat, is encouraged to get a test.

Certain industries that are still operating at full capacity will be targeted for testing, including healthcare and aged care workers, construction workers, supermarket workers and agricultural workers.

Major employers and unions will be supported to actively promote testing to all staff and nurses will provide outreach support and advice around symptoms and help staff to access testing.

In addition, workers without symptoms in hospitals and other facilities with vulnerable residents will also be asked to voluntarily participate in sample testing as part of new research in line with the pre-requisites set out by the National Cabinet.

The widespread testing of individuals will be used alongside wastewater testing, where the levels of coronavirus in sewage will be tracked to help anticipate or rapidly respond to local outbreaks.

Ramping up coronavirus testing is in-line with the pre-requisites set out by the National Cabinet for a potential easing of restrictions. More than 104,000 Victorians have been tested to date. Any decision to ease restrictions after the current State of Emergency will be informed by public health experts and modelling, combined with international experience.

“Victorians have done an amazing job sticking to restrictions to help us to save lives and now we need your help again” said to Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos.

“The more people we test – the better we can track the spread of this virus and decide what our next steps are.”

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton reinforced the message.

“Any decision to ease restrictions needs to be backed and informed by evidence and that’s exactly what these tests help to provide.”

Security staff are on standby to direct those seeking COVID-19 testing and other services to the correct location at the Wonthaggi Hospital.