Doctors slam relaxed COVID testing protocols as case rate in WA hospitals hits record high

The WA branch of the Australian Medical Association has criticized the state government for considering reducing COVID protocols in hospitals, as the number of people hospitalized with the virus hits a record high of 351, including 17 in care intensive.

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson has signaled the possibility of reducing COVID-19 testing in hospitals to move people to emergency departments more efficiently.

“To ease the pressure on our hospitals and staff, we are actively considering safely reducing the Red Alert and Response System (SAR) processes that have been in place in hospitals since March,” she said. declared.

“The Chief Medical Officer of Health is of the opinion that some of the current infection control and testing protocols in hospitals may soon no longer be needed and we expect to make an announcement regarding SAR red protocols shortly.

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said there was a need to find ways to move people through emergency departments more efficiently.(ABC News: James Carmody)

“Infection control processes remain important to keep patients and staff safe, but we also need to support our healthcare workers to quickly and safely treat patients through the emergency department.”

It is understood that the changes would include removing the need for all hospital patients to undergo rapid antigen tests, instead of only requiring tests for those with symptoms.

“It’s a very bad plan”: AMA

AMA WA President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said it was a terrible idea.

“I spoke to two emergency department doctors today, both said it was a very bad plan at this point,” he said.

“Facilitating the spread of COVID in ER waiting rooms won’t change the surge.

A man in a white shirt with a black and gold tie stands outside and looks away.
WADA’s Mark Duncan-Smith says now is not the time to consider relaxing COVID protocols.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

“This decision will make emergency department waiting rooms super spreader events that will make it easier for visitors to spread COVID in hospitals, making it easier for visitors to spread COVID to patients.”

A week ago, there were 252 COVID-related hospitalizations, meaning there was an increase of nearly 100 more people hospitalized with the virus in just seven days.

The record comes as the state reported 6,473 new infections and a total of 35,815 active cases.

With the number of infections, deaths and hospitalizations on the rise across the country, Dr Duncan-Smith said the WA government should strengthen COVID safety protocols, not relax them.

“With 351 patients in hospital, we now have to introduce restrictions in the form of mask-wearing to try to bring the numbers down,” he said.

“Everything we do today won’t have an effect for two to three weeks, so we’ll see even more hospitalized patients.

“I think at this point we will reach…maybe even somewhere between 400 and 500.

“Now it’s a tertiary hospital removed from our system, we only have four and we’ve seen in the past that we don’t even run four tertiary hospitals.”

“Encouraging” masks are not enough

At this time, wearing a mask in WA only remains mandatory in health and aged care facilities and when using public transport and ride-sharing services.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the national cabinet had decided on consistent health messaging around face masks based on recommendations from health authorities.

“This includes wearing masks indoors where appropriate, where people mix and can’t have social distancing, it makes sense that this is strongly encouraged,” he said. .

A person holds a COVID-19 vaccination consent form.
Newer Omicron sub-variants evade immunity.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Dr Duncan-Smith said encouragement alone is not enough.

“Encouraging people to wear masks is where we are now with 351 patients in hospital in Western Australia,” he said.

“We have encouraged the voluntary wearing of the mask, it is clearly not enough.”

The state’s latest COVID numbers also include three deaths, dating back to July 8.

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