Cairns Hospital declares ‘code yellow’ emergency after influx of COVID-19 patients from PNG



One of the biggest hospitals in Far North Queensland has declared a “code yellow” emergency, following an influx of COVID-19 patients from Papua New Guinea.

The Cairns Hospital is currently treating six patients from PNG — all fly-in fly-out mine workers from Cairns.

Last night’s code yellow declaration indicates an internal emergency, with the facility nearing capacity.

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service executive director Dr Don Mackie said the six COVID-19 patients, combined with a record 263 patients presenting to the emergency department over the weekend for various issues, had placed “extraordinary pressure” on health staff.

“They [coronavirus patients] all require highly specialised nursing and specialised areas, ” Dr Mackie said.

“Six or seven beds doesn’t sound like a lot but they are in specific areas, they are in highly specialised negative pressure rooms that reduce the risk of cross-infection on from those patients and it impinges on the other functions of the hospital.

“We have to move people around to other wards.

Dr Don Mackie stands outside the Cairns Hospital in Far North Queensland.
Dr Don Mackie said the COVID-19 patients, combined with those who presented to the emergency department over the weekend, had placed “extraordinary pressure” on health staff.(ABC News: Kristy Sexton-McGrath)

“They’ve all come from hotel quarantine so the system is working as it should do, but all of those factors combine to put extra pressure on the hospital.”

Dr Mackie said everyone that tests positive for COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine is required to be taken to hospital, even if they are feeling well.

He said some non-urgent elective surgery procedures had been postponed as a result of increased demand on services.

Ok Tedi Mining announced it was stopping flights into Cairns after several of its workers tested positive for COVID-19 in a Cairns hotel during quarantine.

The Pacific Hotel in Cairns is the chief quarantine point for overseas travellers returning to Cairns.

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