The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly changing situation. Information, advice and action is continually being updated and amended in response to increasing understanding of the infection and its spread.
The following information should be taken as a point-in-time that may be subject to change.
Please refer to our COVID-19 Information page for information on current cases in the Western NSW Local Health District.
For more information and current data for NSW please go to www.health.nsw.gov.au
ON THIS PAGE:
WESTERN NSW LOCAL HEALTH DISTRICT
The Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) covers almost 250,000 square kilometres and includes more than 279,000 people. It covers the Local Government Areas of: Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Coonamble, Cowra, Dubbo, Forbes, Gilgandra,
Lachlan, Mid-Western, Narromine, Orange, Cabonne, Blayney, Parkes, Walgett, Warren, Warrumbungle, and Weddin.
Specialised care is provided at our three major rural referral hospitals at Bathurst, Dubbo and Orange, and district hospitals. Multipurpose Services (MPS) an community and primary health care services are available across the region.
The responsibilities of the WNSWLHD Public Health Unit include the surveillance, monitoring and control of communicable diseases. The Western Public Health Unit also provides services to the Far Western Local Health District, which includes the
Local Government Areas of Broken Hill, Central Darling, Wentworth, Balranald, and Unincorporated Far West.
CURRENT SITUATION in NSW and WNSWLHD
In NSW, infection with COVID-19 is notifiable under the NSW Public Health Act 2010. Doctors and pathology laboratories are required to notify NSW Health of all people suspected to have this infection.
The WNSWLHD publishes current information on testing and the management of confirmed COVID-19 cases online, to news media and on
CORONAVIRUS & COVID-19
There are many types of coronvirus, which can cause illnesses from the common cold to pneumonia. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a new type of coronavirus.
COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by this new coronavirus. COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China in December 2019. The disease has since spread widely around the world. The first case in Australia was
reported in January 2020.
Many people who get COVID-19 will experience a mild illness and recover quickly. Others may become ill very quickly and some of those may develop complications which require treatment in hospital. Some people who develop severe complications will
As a new illness, there is still a lot being learned about COVID-19, however the people who appear most at risk of experiencing a severe illness are the elderly and people with existing conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, and
A series of special orders have been made throughout March and April 2020 to help control the spread of COVID-19 by imposing limits on the movement and gathering of people in the community.
Coronavirus can be transmitted to a person’s close contacts through droplets spread by coughing, sneezing or contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, cough, runny nose, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.
COVID-19 is diagnosed by finding evidence of the virus in respiratory samples such as swaps from the back of the nose and throat or fluid from the lungs. Samples for testing can be undertaken by general practitioners or at public hospitals.
NSW Health has procedures in place to identify people who have been in contact with a confirmed case. Those people will be monitored and managed to prevent any further spread of infection, should they be found to also have COVID-19 infection.
Social distancing means reducing the number of close physical and social contacts people have with one another.
When social distancing actions are combined with good personal hygiene measures the spread of a pandemic can be slowed. This helps protect the most vulnerable members of the community and reduces the impact of the pandemic on essential,
life-saving health services.
Social distancing measures include maintain at least 1.5 metres between people.
A range of statutory measures have been introduced limiting social gatherings and movements in, and between communities.
Home isolation for 14 days is required for people who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection.
During home isolation a person must:
- remain separated from others in the household
- wear a surgical mask when in the same room as another person
- use a separate bathroom, if available,
- avoid shared or communal areas, and wear a surgical mask when moving through these areas.
ACTIONS TO DATE
- The Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) has been established to manage our response. It is led by the Chief Executive and will coordinate the response across all functions including operations, public health, workforce, logistics and
procurement, infection control, planning and analysis, communications, information technology, and finance.
- We are working with the State Health Emergency Operations Centre (SHEOC) which has been established at Homebush alongside the State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC). SHEOC will oversee the operational requirements across NSW Health and will
be the information conduit for Local Health Districts.
- Fever Clinics have been established in Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo to facilitate testing for people who meet the criteria, and to minimise the risk of exposure. Additional clinics may be activated, along with general practitioner clinics.
- We are working with a range of health care partners, including the Western Primary Health Network, Aboriginal Medical Services and the private sector to develop coordinated plans.
- Restrictions on hospital visitors and volunteers have been implemented at all sites.
- The Public Health team has established a Helpline (1800 066 055) to provide information and support to health care providers and the general community.
- Training and education specific to a pandemic response is available to the workforce and staff are encouraged to use virtual technology to minimise contact wherever possible for outpatient services and other meetings.
- News and social media is being heavily utilised to keep the community informed about local and state-wide developments.
WNSWLHD COVID-19 RESPONSE
In addition to initial actions, the WNSWLHD has developed and is implementing a longer term response.
AIM OF THE RESPONSE
- minimise the number of people becoming infected or sick with COVID-19
- minimise how sick people become and the mortality rate
- manage the demand on our health services
- help people manage their own risk, the risk to their family and community.
MANAGING THE RESPONSE
The WNSWLHD Health Emergency Operation Centre (HEOC) makes key decisions and coordinates our District’s COVID-19 response. The HEOC meets every day to drive the planning and execution of the District’s COVID-19 response.
THE RESPONSE PLAN
The response plan
Triggers related to the spread of COVID-19, particularly in particular age groups, the impact of COVID-19 on our health services, and the lead times needed to activate specific services will be used to move us through each of the phases as the COVID-19 situation changes.
We are currently in the response phase. While there is still much being learned about COVID-19 and its spread, we have sufficient information to be targeting our response locally.
Our targeted actions in the response phase are centred on several key principles:
- protecting the community
- protecting health care providers
- protecting elderly residents who live in our Multipurpose Services (MPS).
Actions to support and maintain quality care:
- Fever clinics at several facilities across the District to provide testing for COVID-19
- Increase Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and acute hospital bed capacity across the District with the aim of tripling ICU capacity in our larger hospitals in Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst.
- Increase support for Hospital in The Home (HITH).
- Establish ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ zones in some emergency departments and hospitals. This approach separates people with respiratory and flu-like symptoms from people with other health needs.
- Relocate staff and equipment within hospitals to priority areas and, where necessary, reconfigure ward areas.
- Adapt hospital resources including rooms, protocols and guidelines and equipment for use in priority areas such as ICU.
- Defer non-urgent elective surgery to free up hospital capacity.
- Negotiate and implement new arrangements with private hospitals as required, for instance for post-operative care, palliative care, and non-COVID-19 medical care.
- Use the network of services and facilities across the District to the best effect. This will allow the Base hospitals to increase their capacity to care for acute COVID-19 patients.
- Enhance virtual health service delivery to support people with mild COVID-19 symptoms to be cared for at home, and to support the continuation of essential non-admitted community and outpatient services
- Use virtual health services more extensively to support people staying well in their homes.
- Increase in-reach to Residential Aged Care facilities to provide medical care to residents to avoid visits to hospital.
- Limiting the exposure risk to vulnerable groups through strategies such as visitor restrictions and waiting room management.
- Training and redeploying the workforce to meet additional clinical and non-clinical demand.
- Increase patient transport services.
- Maintain a high priority for the procurement and distribution of necessary equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), consumables and medicines.
Actions to manage the risk of exposure, reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to access medical help early when required:
- Western Public Health team to continue contact tracing for people confirmed with COVID-19 to initiate timely isolation and testing.
- Continue to use news and social media to provide up-to-date information and advice in all communities.
- Provide information and access to resources to support groups of the community at higher risk of severe illness.
- Provide options for people to obtain medical and other advice without face-to-face contact, such as the Western Public Health helpline.
WHAT THESE PLANS MEAN FOR COMMUNITIES, PEOPLE AND PATIENTS
Putting these plans into action will mean that services and facilities operate in a different way to usual. It is important that communities, people and patients are prepared for these changes, and are supported in navigating through them in order to access care and information as well as control the spread of COVID-19.
- People confirmed as having COVID-19, and people who have been in close contact will be required to stay at home, or in hospital if they need medical care.
- Hospitals and services may change the way they operate to minimise the risk of exposure to health care workers and other patients, and to direct resources into supporting ICU and acute hospital care.
- Some people who are sick – either with COVID-19 or other conditions – may receive medical care at home, where it is safe to do so, rather than in hospital.
- Telehealth – where telephone, or videoconferencing technology is used to connect a person to their health provider – may be used to provide health care.
- People may be encouraged to use information sources such as helplines, websites, apps and reliable social media.
- Waiting times may increase in areas such as Emergency Departments during busy periods.
- Non-urgent elective surgery may be postponed to free up hospital capacity and to minimse the risk of people coming into contact with COVID-19.
- Visitor restrictions remain in place for all patients, and to protect older people, face-to-face visits are suspended for all residents living in our MPS facilities.
ACCESSING UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION
- NSW Health has published a COVID-19 section on its website – www.health.nsw.gov.au
- The Australian Department of Health also has a COVID-19 web section which includes a fact sheets for a range of industries and the community: www.health.gov.au
- Western Public Health Helpline – business hours service providing general advice and support for health care providers and community – 1300 066 055
healthdirect – 24/7 advice and access to a Registered Nurse – 1800 022 222
- National Coronavirus Helpline – 24/7 general information and advice – 1800 020 080
- Our Facebook Page – The WNSWLHD is publishing frequent updates on its Facebook page @wnswlhd