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WNSWLHD holiday services over Christmas and New Year

21 December 2021

Many COVID-19 testing clinics and vaccination hubs across Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) will operate under reduced hours of operation during the Christmas and New Year period.

Mark Spittal, WNSWLHD Acting Chief Executive, said while there will be some closures on public holidays, there will still be opportunities for vaccination and testing.

“Our vaccination and testing staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and many will take the opportunity for a short, but well-deserved break to spend time with loved ones,” Mr Spittal said.

“There remains many opportunities for vaccination in the community. Our COVID-19 vaccination hubs in Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo will be closed from 24 December to 28 December, and from 31 December to 3 January.

“Those hubs will also operate with reduced hours on 29 and 30 December and from 4 January to 7 January. During those periods, they will be open from 10am to 2pm. Before and after those dates, they will be open as normal.

“Vaccination is our best protection against transmission of COVID-19 and serious illness if transmission occurs. I urge anyone who is not yet vaccinated to do so as a priority and to book in for your booster as soon as you are eligible at five months after your second dose.

“Our vaccination hubs do accept walk-ins, but with increased demand expected in the coming days and weeks we are encouraging people to book appointments ahead of time.”

For more information on COVID-19 vaccination visit the WNSWLHD website or the Federal Government’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder​.

Mr Spittal said most of the District’s drive-through COVID-19 testing clinics that are operated by private pathology services such as Laverty, Histopath and Barratt & Smith will be closed on at least Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

“That includes drive-through testing clinics in Orange, Bathurst, Dubbo and Forbes. Some clinics will have more extended closures and some will also operate under reduced hours on other days. I encourage people to visit the NSW Health website to find those details,” Mr Spittal said.

“We will continue to establish pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics in areas across the District as they necessary and will notify of those when required, through social media and the WNSWLHD website.

“Our Hospital testing clinics will also be closed on public holidays. There will be opportunities to be tested through emergency departments (ED) but I urge communities to only present to EDs for testing if it is necessary, we need our hospitals at full capacity.

“Our Emergency Departments will continue operate 24 hours a day over this period for any people suffering serious injury or illness, so communities need to be aware that ED staff must prioritise patients in that setting.

“There will also be a focus on providing testing for people who are unwell or showing symptoms, so there may be a long wait for testing. All testing will be conducted safely and separately.

“Unscheduled and emergency surgery will continue to be performed across the holiday period, as will essential procedures such as renal dialysis. But the level of elective surgery typically reduces over Christmas and New Year.

“As many clinical staff take the opportunity to spend some well-deserved time with their loved ones, it makes sense to have a low-activity period for non-urgent elective surgery and most patients do not want to spend the festive season in hospital.

“The period from January through to Easter is expected to be a time of intensive activity for surgical services, particularly as the District continues to implement its accelerated surgical program.

“No matter the setting, we ask that everyone in the community please be patient with healthcare staff and follow their guidance. They will not only be doing their best, but they’ll be doing so instead of spending Christmas or New Year with their loved ones.”

Mr Spittal also encouraged communities to continue practicing fundamental, COVID-19 safe behaviours as part of their daily routine, particularly as movement increases while people travel in the holiday period.

“With more movement around the District, the risk of COVID-19 spreading will increase too and it’s now up to all of us as individuals to play our role in helping to stop that spread,” Mr Spittal said.

“The pandemic is not over, but the way we live with it is changing so we urge everyone in our communities to continue being COVID-safe, particularly during the holiday period and especially if you are visiting people who might be vulnerable.

“Part of self-responsibility is to take sensible precautions. We recommend that on top of wearing a mask wherever it is mandatory, people make the choice to do so when around crowds in indoor settings like supermarkets, shopping centres or bottle shops.

“We also urge everyone to continue washing and sanitising their hands regularly, continuing to check in and check out using QR codes wherever that is required and, if they feel unwell, to stay at home and organise to be tested immediately.

“Get the entire family tested before you travel and please be patient at testing clinics if there is a queue. It is also a good idea to have some rapid antigen tests handy while you are travelling, and if you plan to attend social events.

“Form a plan should you, loved ones or anyone in your household test positive for COVID-19. Make a checklist so you know what to do and how to be prepared for isolation.”