Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child says we’re ready to support an easing of restrictions in country areas.

IT’S almost certain now that regional Victoria will make the move to Step 3 on the State Government’s ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ as early as this Wednesday, if as expected, case numbers stay below the rolling average of five new cases-a-day.

However, while there was a good deal of trepidation within local health services the first time restrictions were eased, Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child believes we’re much better placed to deal with the challenges now.

But, as ever, the community must play its part.

“The move to ease restrictions across Regional Victoria is a positive one that will see Bass Coast Health maintain its preparedness to test, trace and treat any community members with respiratory symptoms, whilst also having its doors open and ready for anyone who needs usual health care support,” Ms Child said this week.

People neglecting their usual health issues due to COVID, including dental, has been highlighted as a problem in the past week.

“Bass Coast Health has put in significant effort over the past six months to prepare staff and implement services to provide a swift and safe response to COVID-19.

“To date, we have had no positive inpatients and no positive staff and only a handful of positive patients through the ED.

“We have managed to identify and support a number of community patients and minimise the spread through very proactive testing and tracing.

“With the eased restrictions, we will continue to focus on identifying any cases as quickly as possible through symptomatic and asymptomatic testing, supporting positive patients to isolate.

“We will also be undertaking any contact tracing with support from metro and regional teams as required, to make sure we can proactively manage any local outbreaks and prevent community transmission,” Ms Child said.

Don’t forget testing

And one of the best ways the community can support the response is by getting tested if they have even the mildest of flu-like symptoms.

“Testing continues to be one of the most important things that we will ask everyone to do to keep our community safe,” Ms Child said.

“If every person gets tested whenever they have the slightest symptoms, we will know exactly where and how much community transmission we have.

“We have the resources to be able to test and track transmission and trace all the contacts as soon as we get the results.

“Our aim has and will continue to be that we get any positive contacts quickly tested and isolated.

“The last few weeks has seen a reduction in numbers presenting for testing (an average of 40 per day in the last fortnight, from 160 in previous weeks) but we have maintained the Wonthaggi drive through in the new times of 10am to 4pm, 7 days-a-week.”

BCH will continue to divert community members who need a GP assessment, to Wonthaggi Medical Group (WMG). Testing at the Phillip Island Health Hub continues to be available 24 hours-a-day with people encouraged to present between 1.30pm and 3pm to minimise wait times.

“Demand for testing and tracing will continue to be monitored over the coming weeks and we will very quickly ramp-up if there is a demand.”

Ms Child said Bass Coast Health would continue to offer all other services safely, and in a way that ensures people needing care for a stroke, heart attack and cancer are treated separately to respiratory patients.

“We have seen some decline in people seeking health care advice or support because of the fear that they might be exposed to COVID patients but we are extremely confident and able to continue to treat all patients,” Ms Child said.

“We have created separate areas to isolate respiratory patients. Our staff have undertaken extensive training and implemented a number of new processes to reduce risk.

“And we have continued to strengthen our existing services such as Maternity and the Emergency Department to make sure we are meeting the local community’s needs and keeping everyone safe.

“While we know that gradual easing of restrictions will positively impact the wellbeing of our community, and strengthen our economy, we will continue to commit to the longer-term process of keeping ourselves safe.

“We need to make sure we do not undo the gains that we have made. Our safe and cautious approach to dealing with COVID-19 has meant we have averted the crisis and human tragedy locally that we have seen globally and across other parts of Victoria.

“Bass Coast Health is keen for people to maintain this approach, and we will continue to practice and promote some key public health measures to avoid a third wave occurring.

“High numbers of cases in neighbouring regions and the high instance of health care workers infected in other services in metropolitan Melbourne shows how quickly COVID-19 spreads.

“This is a highly infectious virus that spreads easily and quickly.

“It can move from one person to 20 quickly. This is one of the reasons Bass Coast Health has taken an overly cautious approach to protect our staff and clients. It’s also the reason why we will continue to advocate for caution in our community so that we do not have to face the tragic impacts of a virus out of control.

“As we move out of the restrictions, it will be critical that people continue to be safe and cautious and continue to practice the good public health measures that have kept our community, friends and families safe so far.”

These are the measures that Ms Child has listed:

  1. Following the COVID-19 directives of the day.
  2. Avoiding crowds and only moving about the community if you really have to.
  3. Maintaining your Physical Distance from others, 1.5 metres wherever you can, including in your workplace and during leisure
  4. Wear a mask, not below your nose, and not around your neck, and remember that a face shield is an extra protection but not a substitute for a mask.
  5. Stay at Home if you are at all unwell, then Get Tested ASAP
  6. Maintain strong hand hygiene – use sanitiser (70% plus alcohol) and wash your hands as often as you can for at least 20 seconds
  7. Continue to take care of yourself including your mental and physical health; don’t put off appointments for medical issues
  8. Be kind and look out for each other.