Around 50 patients and staff at Geraldton Regional Hospital are being treated as “casual contacts” of a COVID positive seafarer treated at the facility after authorities identified a potential breach of protocols.
The crew member – from the MV Emerald Indah – was taken to Geraldton Regional Hospital on Sunday evening after the ship reported he had become unwell with COVID-like symptoms.
While the man was housed in a negative pressure room during his stay, the Health Department this afternoon revealed that when he was being moved out of the hospital to be transferred via plane to Perth, a staff member not wearing PPE entered a lift shortly after the crew member had exited it.
The man also spent three hours in the emergency department — potentially exposing up to 50 patients and staff — although Public Health Emergency Operations strategy coordinator Clare Huppatz insisted the risk was “very small”.
While the staff member who entered the lift is being treated as close contact and forced to isolate for 14 days, none of the 50 casual contacts will be subjected to stay-at-home orders.
Instead, they will be monitored for symptoms daily and tested on day three, seven and 11.
“The patient had just left the lift and a staff member entered the lift afterward and they weren’t wearing PPE, so we consider that staff member to be in close contact,” Dr Huppatz said.
“They were immediately isolated and they’re still isolated. They will continue 14 days of quarantine and they will undergo testing at three points during that period.
“We’ve really been through with a fine tooth comb where that patient went through their journey through the Geraldton hospital.
“We’ve determined that the length of time that they spent inside the emergency department, and the fact that the emergency department was not an isolated negative pressure room, meant that we would like to treat the other people that were in the emergency department at the same time, who were not wearing PPE, as casual contacts.”
“Now there were many mitigation measures that were in place, it’s really important that I say WA Country Health has got good, clear protocols and all of them were followed.
“But on this occasion, the patient was in the emergency department for longer than you would normally expect, up to three hours.
“And it’s a very small risk because of that, that there might have been a transmission event inside the emergency department.
“It’s a very, very small risk as casual contacts (and) we’ve determined that they can go about their normal business but we ask them to be tested at three points during the next 14 days.”