The viability of keeping the North West Regional Hospital open is being assessed constantly as investigations into a coronavirus outbreak at the facility continue says the state's Chief Medical Officer.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 12 staff at the NWRH and two inpatients have tested positive to coronavirus.
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CMO Tony Lawler said the Regional Health Emergency Management Team was continuously reviewing the capacity of the NWRH and the Mersey Community Hospital to provide safe health services to the North-West region.
Professor Lawler said this included reconsidering the configuration of the Mersey, utilising the North West Private Hospital and working closely with the Launceston General Hospital and the Royal Hobart Hospital.
"Rather than saying how much more can we tolerate what we are doing is we are looking at how we can efficiently deliver a service with the resources we have," Professor Lawler said.
"It wouldn't be incorrect to say we are assessing that on an hourly basis."
Professor Lawler said the outbreak at the NWRH was currently confined to a particular ward at the hospital.
He said, while he would not go into the breakdown of individual professional groups, the infected staff included medical, nursing and other health staff.
"We are not admitting new patients to the medical ward in line with advice from public health services," Professor Lawler said.
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An Outbreak Management Team continues to track the staff and patient contacts of the COVID-19 positive health workers.
"The Outbreak Management Team brings together expertise from across the state: senior nursing assistants from the North to advise on patient safety, infectious disease and general practice doctors from the South and 10 members of Tasmania Police from the local region to assist with contacting discharged patients," Professor Lawler said.
"We are also looking for members from other agencies within the region to assist with this effort."
Professor Lawler said there were three groups providing leadership in responding to COVID-19 in the North-West: the Outbreak Management Team whose focus was on contact identification and tracing, the Regional Health Emergency Management Team which had the responsibility for the overall coronavirus response and the Tasmanian Health Service North-West Executive which was charged with the day-to-day running of the service.
He said the Outbreak Management Team was also in charge of establishing and refining processes which, should outbreaks occur in other parts of the state, would allow health authorities to respond rapidly and effectively and learn from the experience in the North-West.
As the result of contact tracing a number of staff at the NWRH and the Mersey have been stood down.
"There is no doubt the outbreak is impacting on staffing levels," Professor Lawler said but he could not provide the exact number of staff who have been stood down as this was constantly changing.
"A number of the furloughed staff have actually come out of isolation. A number of others in the process of being stepped down have been tested and become COVID-19 cases," Professor Lawler said.
"We are looking at seeking staffing assistance where possible from across the state. We are in the process of refining that with key clinical leaders."
Health Minister Sarah Courtney confirmed on Wednesday accommodation had been provided to some health workers who needed to self-isolate away from their family home.
Public Health director Mark Veitch said the threshold for COVID-19 testing of health workers was low, with any worker showing fever or respiratory symptoms able to be tested.
"That's one of the reasons we were able to pick up the cases in the North-West when we did," Dr Veitch said.
"There's a substantial number of people now furloughed, in quarantine, as a result of being contacts of the cases at the NWRH. Any of those people with respiratory symptoms will be tested quickly whether they are a health worker or home contact."
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