Ready to act

Castlemaine Health Board Chair Peggy Ronnau and CEO Ian Fisher urge community members to observe the 1.5 metre social distancing rule and do their bit to minimise the spread of infection.

Lisa Dennis

With growing concerns over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and news this week that three cases have now been confirmed in Mount Alexander Shire, the Mail sat down with Castlemaine Health CEO Ian Fisher, Board Chair Peggy Ronnau and Executive Director of Clinical and Community Programs Dianne Senior to talk about their preparations for the virus.

The chat was one of their final face to face meetings before they move to teleconferencing. Board Chair Peggy Ronnau had crafted a special 1.5m ruler to ensure the meeting could be conducted safely. Castlemaine Health CEO Ian Fisher told the Mail the hospital is currently in a phase of containment.

“Our aim is to keep people out of the health service by reducing traffic where possible, restricting movement by limiting visitors to aged care, the rehabilitation and acute wards to minimise the potential for cross contamination and encouraging anyone with symptoms to contact their GP for advice,” Mr Fisher said.

This was further ramped up as of Wednesday midnight with the hospital moving to restrict all non-essential visitors to aged care. All visitors must now enter the hospital through the main entrance where they will be temperature checked and screened by trained staff. Visits will be a maximum of 10 minutes with no more than two people.

The cases identified in Mount Alexander Shire so far have been via in-car consultations by doctors in Personal Protective Clothing. Those affected are all self-isolating at home and being managed by their respective GPs. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) declined to reveal any information about the cases due to privacy reasons.

However, a spokesperson said the public can be confident that all close contacts will be identified and responded to accordingly as required to protect public health.

“As part of our contract tracing, any public exposure sites are contacted and provided with advice about the transmission risks and any cleaning that may be required,” the DHHS spokesperson said.

Mr Fisher said they have no cases currently at the hospital. At the time of going to press Castlemaine Health had conducted 41 tests and all had returned negative results. Mr Fisher said they are meeting with local GPs via teleconference twice a week and department on a regular basis for updates.

Eve Lamb
Journalist and photographer Eve Lamb has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) degree from Deakin University and a Master of Arts (Professional Writing) from Deakin University. She has worked for many regional newspapers including the Hamilton Spectator and the Warrnambool Standard, and has also worked for metro daily, The Hobart Mercury, and The Sunday Tasmanian. Eve has also contributed to various magazines including Australian Cyclist.