AMA chief says Queensland government’s ‘double failure’ led to doctor contracting COVID-19



The Australian Medical Association has accused the Queensland government of a “double failure” after a Queensland doctor contracted the COVID-19.

The doctor tested positive to COVID-19 on Friday after assessing two coronavirus patients known to have the UK variant at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital on Wednesday.

Queensland Health confirmed on Saturday the doctor had not received the Pfizer vaccine, which began being rolled out in the hospital late last month

AMA president Omar Khorshid said a lack of appropriate personal protective equipment and a slow rollout of the vaccine had led to the infection.

“There’s plenty of vaccine for all of the workers in the phase 1a, yet after three weeks, we’re only halfway through the task in Queensland and many other states are in similar positions,” he said.

“It is possible to have done better and this is a wake-up call for all our state governments to really speed up the rollout of the vaccine for all healthcare workers and then get on with the bigger task of vaccinating the rest of the population.”

Dr Khorshid also accused the Queensland government of not providing “airborne protection” for all healthcare workers that are exposed to patients with COVID-19.

“They’ve said the doctor was wearing the PPE appropriately, so it doesn’t look like there’s been a failure on the user end which means there must be some other failure, and the obvious source is the lack of airborne protection,” he said.

“One part of that is N95 masks, but also includes proper eye protection and other protections like appropriate airflow within facilities that are treating COVID patients.”

Dr Khorshid said: “We have been arguing about that for many months now around the country, and really only the Victorian government is doing enough after their terrible experience with thousands and thousands of health care worker infections”.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the department’s PPE use “is in line with the relevant clinical guidelines” and control of “when the Australian vaccination program started is a matter for the Commonwealth”.

In response to Dr Khorshid, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said: “Any comments about PPE or the manner of transmission is speculative and it would be inappropriate to comment further until more information is gathered.”

Earlier, Queensland’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett said the doctor was wearing personal protective equipment while treating the patients and there had been “no identified breaches” in protocol.

“Certainly, the hospital will look into that and try to identify any particular cause that may need improvement, but there’s nothing to suggest that has occurred,” she said.

“It is a virus, it is highly infectious.”

High risk sites listed

On Saturday morning, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that hospitals and aged care and disability services in Greater Brisbane will be locked down for at least 72 hours.

Contact tracers are urgently seeking people who had been in the hospital during the doctor’s shifts and at other locations she visited outside work.

The list includes three “high-risk sites”:

  • Morning After cafe at West End 2.00pm to 3:15pm
  • Corporate Box gym at Stones Corner 5:45pm to 7:00pm
  • Stones Corner hotel at Stones Corner 7:00pm and 7:45pm

Anyone who visited those sites at those times should self-quarantine at home and call Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

McDonald’s at Coorparoo on Brisbane’s eastside has been identified as a low-risk site, because the doctor only used the drive-through between 3:10am and 3:20am on Thursday.

People who visited McDonald’s at that time are asked to monitor their health and immediately get tested if they notice any symptoms.

For the next three days, all essential visitors to hospital and other facilities for vulnerable people will be required to wear a mask, though there is no requirement for mask-wearing in the community, Ms Palaszczuk said.

Exterior of the morning after cafe
Morning After cafe at West End was identified as one location the doctor visited while carrying the coronavirus.(ABC News: Sally Eeles )

Doctor not vaccinated

Earlier, Ms D’Ath defended the state’s record on administering doses to frontline health workers.

“We need to remind ourselves we’re only in week three of a national vaccination rollout,” Ms D’Ath said.

“There are millions and millions of Queenslanders and Australians still to be vaccinated. We have 37,000 people in the first group … all of these 37,000 people are equally important to each other.”

The Health Minister said more than 3,800 staff at the Princess Alexandra Hospital were among that group, and 1,615 had already received the first dose of the vaccine.

“We’re on track. We are delivering exactly what we said we would in line with the national agreement. And in line with our own targets that we set ourselves,” Ms D’Ath said.

In a statement, AMA Queensland president Professor Chris Perry said the association looked forward to the results of Queensland Health’s inquiry into the transmission.

“This incident highlights the critical need for all frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated without delay — particularly those in high-risk roles,” he said.

Hospital in lockdown

Princess Alexandra Hospital was placed into lockdown on Friday night, as contact tracers searched for patients, staff and families who may have been exposed.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett said the doctor came into contact with the cases during a shift early on Wednesday morning.

She then worked a subsequent shift later that day into Thursday morning.

Authorities are conducting contact tracing among all staff, patients and other people she may have come into contact with at the hospital.

Exterior of Corporate Box gym
Corporate Box gym closed for cleaning after a patron tested positive to COVID-19.(ABC News: Liz Pickering )

Dr Bennett said the doctor woke with a sore throat on Friday morning and immediately isolated and got tested.

“It was a very quick chain of events and we really want to thank that doctor for coming forward quickly and getting tested,” Dr Bennett said.

“Whilst she wasn’t symptomatic while she was working at the hospital … there will be a big contact tracing operation underway at the PA Hospital.”

From Friday night, all non-essential visits to the hospital were banned, and any essential visitors and staff were required to wear a mask.

Stones Corner Hotel as seen from the street.
The doctor visited Stones Corner Hotel while positive for coronavirus on Thursday, March 11.(ABC News: Liz Pickering)

The Emergency Department is still open, but the people are urged to use other hospitals or a GP, if possible.

Non-urgent outpatient bookings and elective surgery have been postponed.

Despite the positive case, Queensland lifted some of its COVID-19 restrictions ahead of the Easter long weekend.

From Saturday, Queenslanders are able to have 100 people at their home, up from 50.

Outdoor events can now have 500 people, a five-fold increase on previous restrictions, and all restrictions have been lifted on camping.

People still must maintain a distance of 1.5 metres, and venues like restaurants, pubs, cafes, museums and art galleries are still under the one-person-per-2-square-metre rule.

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