COVID-19 is impacting the daily life of everyone around the world and it is here in Port Stephens and the Myall Coast.
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Fortunately, so far, here in Australia we have seen few deaths, however it is only a matter of time as case number surges, so too will fatalities.
The numbers clearly show that elderly populations are more at risk than younger people, this is of concern in our region.
While New Zealand is in lockdown working towards eradication of the disease, Australia is working to flatten the curve.
A move which will hopefully see emergency departments and ICU facilities able to cope with all the cases with which our community is faced with.
However, for Port Stephens, Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest these are particularly trying times.
Port Stephens beaches, parks, playgrounds, boat ramps and halls are all closed.
Our elderly and vulnerable population is scared, and rightly so.
The statistics show that the older you are the harder the virus seems to hit.
Some elderly residents are fearful as to whether they will have beds or ventilators if they need them.
Add to this the lack of hospital facilities and health services in Port Stephens and Tea Gardens / Hawks Nest and there is plenty to worry about.
Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington has taken the stance of actively discouraging visitors to the region – with two Sydney radio interviews this week, based on discouraging visitation to the region which desperately needs to protect its vulnerable and elderly residents.
In a letter to Health Minister Brad Hazzard she stated that the only available testing is over an hours drive from residents at Maitland and John Hunter Hospitals.
She is worried like the residents, as many of the older more vulnerable residents can’t drive making testing unattainable.
Ms Washington has also requested drive through testing at Raymond Terrace, on the Tomaree Peninsula, and in Tea Gardens / Hawks Nest to make testing accessible to residents.
She is calling for, “Accessible testing clinics, accessible treatment beds and resources, arrangements for travel to and from clinics and additional support and supplies for those in self isolation.”
She has also raised concerns with Minister Hazzard regarding the influx of holidaymakers ignoring non-essential travel bans.
She urged the Minister, “To protect my community and others from the risk posed by tourists, I urge you to issue clear direction to all accommodation providers to prevent holidaymaking, by adding this to the restricted list.”
Dr Paul Craven, Medical Controller for COVID-19 at Hunter New England Health told News Of the Area, “We have accessed equipment and ICU capacity right across the District and have plans in place to surge when we need to.
“Every one of our hospitals are ready and prepared to treat COVID-19 patients as required.”
However Ms Washington’s letter to Minister Hazzard shows her concern for the preparedness of Tomaree Community Hospital which she believes is not ready to treat COVID-19 patients.
“The community has an important role to play in keeping people out of hospitals.
“It is of the utmost importance that everyone practices good infection prevention.
“This includes staying at home and away from other people if you are unwell with respiratory symptoms… cleaning your hands regularly throughout the day with soap and running water for 20 seconds or with an alcohol based rub,” he said.
At the time of writing COVID-19 numbers in the Hunter New England region are growing with 189 cases two of which are noted as recovered,” said Dr Craven.
Kate Washington also stated, “I appreciate the terrible hardship that a lack of visitors to our region is causing local businesses. And that those businesses employ local people who are also suffering. However, in this horrifying public health crisis, lives must be put before livelihoods. I’ll be working hard to see our local businesses and families get all the support they can during this crisis, so we can get through this as safely as possible.”
By Marian SAMPSON