Fears Rockhampton nurse could spark second wave

 

A HEALTH expert has warned a second wave of COVID-19 transmissions could be triggered by an infected Rockhampton aged care nurse who continued to work and study while waiting for virus test results.

The nurse, who is a student at Central Queensland University, earlier this month attended the campus library and was given permission to travel to Brisbane, for what is believed to have been medical reasons.

An investigation is now underway into how the nurse was able to continue working with vulnerable elderly people.

A Rockhampton library the nurse visited has been cleaned and aged care residents evacuated from the wing that the nurse worked in.

North Rockhampton Nursing Centre in Rockhampton. Picture: AAP Image/Levi Appleton
North Rockhampton Nursing Centre in Rockhampton. Picture: AAP Image/Levi Appleton

The nursing centre remained in lock down last night as the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service began moving some residents into hospital beds to allow remaining residents to better quarantine.

The move came despite all 193 staff and residents returning negative initial coronavirus tests.

Dr Lisa Bricknell, a CQU public health academic and former Queensland Health contact tracer, a case like this had the possibility of a dangerously widespread web of transmission.

She said the state was particularly vulnerable as isolation rules began to be relaxed.

"As isolation restrictions start to ease this case is a massive warning to Queenslanders to understand that they still cannot be complacent as it only takes one case for it to trigger a damaging spread,'' she said.

Health Minister Steven Miles admitted his deep disappointment over the incident.

He said extensive testing continued in Rockhampton in an attempt to trace anyone who have become infected.

"It is unacceptable and there will be an investigation into what occurred,'' he said.

Queensland Law Society immediate past president Bill Potts said if people died as a result of the nurse's actions then lawsuits could follow.

"People have to follow the Chief Medical Officer's directive around social distancing and the like but nurses are an essential service," he said.

"Where a legal issue arises is if one of these people she had contact with develops COVID-19 and died or suffered a serious illness I suspect that the operators of the nursing home may well find themselves civilly liable for any injury or harm for not having clearer, more strictly enforced policies.''

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has said that there was no mistake made with the nurse's travel to and from Brisbane, as it was for an essential purpose.

It has been reported that the nurse received an exemption from her GP.

Dr Young said a Health Department investigation would also determine if the nurse was subject to daily temperature readings.

"That is what we are trying to confirm with the facility at the moment,'' Dr Young said.

"There was a requirement for that (temperature readings) to be in place across all our aged care facilities and indeed all our health care facilities.

"So we are trying to work out what happened there.''

Dr Young said the nurse's symptoms of the virus were very mild and the nurse was largely confined to reception work in the aged care facility.

Dr Bruce Willett, Chair of RACGP Queensland told The Sunday Mail that GPs are being inundated by requests from patients for special exemptions to work or to travel.

"GPs do not have the authority to give exemptions and the Chief Health Officer should issue a statement warning Queenslanders not to put pressure on their doctors for such letters. The GP can only write a letter explaining the patient has special medical or family circumstances the rest is up to Queensland Health or the police," Dr Willett said.

Originally published as Fears Rockhampton nurse could spark second wave