Queensland Chief Medical officer Jeanette Young (pictured) and Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles will visit the region today. Picture: AAPimage/David Clark
Queensland Chief Medical officer Jeanette Young (pictured) and Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles will visit the region today. Picture: AAPimage/David Clark

Health leaders visit Rockhampton as residents demand answers

QUEENSLAND'S most senior health officials will arrive in Rockhampton today as a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus case at North Rockhampton Nursing Centre gets under way.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young will visit the region as the waiting game to establish whether there has been any close-contact or community transmission from a COVID-19-positive Rockhampton nurse continues.

It is understood the enrolled nurse, who travelled to Brisbane for a medical appointment before falling ill on May 5 and continuing to work at the aged care centre while infectious, has been suspended.

 

PATIENTS TRANSFERRED: Ambulances queue outside North Rockhampton Nursing Centre.
PATIENTS TRANSFERRED: Ambulances queue outside North Rockhampton Nursing Centre.

 

After the nurse, who had been working at a reception desk, tested positive to COVID-19 on Thursday evening, Queensland Health deployed a rapid-response team and a mammoth effort to move dozens of residents from the facility was carried out at the weekend.

Rapid testing for the virus was conducted on close to 300 staff and residents at the facility, with 235 returning negative results by Sunday - 37 tests were outstanding.

Mr Miles said staff and residents would not be in the clear entirely for an additional 12 days.

"The thought of a confirmed case in one of Queensland's aged-care facilities is something that's kept me up at night for months," Minister Miles said.

"On Thursday evening it happened. A nurse at the North Rockhampton Nursing Home tested positive.

"Since then we've tested 235 staff and residents and, in what can only be described as a miracle, they've all come back negative for now.

"We're still waiting for the results of 37 staff, but I'm relieved that the patients, some of Queensland's most vulnerable, have so far tested negative.

"We will need to wait 12 more days before we know none will get sick."

Mr Miles said 35 residents of the centre had been relocated, by eight ambulance crews to allow them to quarantine in single rooms. They were transported to Rockhampton's Hillcrest Private Hospital and Mater Hospital.

Mr Miles said contact tracing was still underway to determine how the nurse contracted the virus.

With no other cases of COVID-19 recorded across Queensland yesterday, all eyes were on Rockhampton and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did not hold back her thoughts on the situation.

"It is not acceptable for anyone who is sick in this particular pandemic to go to work if they are sick. The Chief Health Officer has been very clear: if you are sick, stay at home," Premier Palaszczuk said.

"It is very clear and honestly a nurse should know better.

"Look what we have seen with a person turning up to work sick, and turning up to work after being tested. It is not acceptable."

Premier Palaszczuk also confirmed an inquiry would take place into the matter.

She said matters such as why the nurse was allowed to work while sick, and after being tested for COVID-19, as well as any staffing issues at the centre, would be "looked at in greater detail".

The LNP has expanded on its demands for an inquiry into the situation, calling on the State Government to ensure procedures are in place to guarantee the safety of residents and staff at all 16 state government-run aged-care homes across Queensland in the wake of the North Rockhampton breach.

Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates also called for the inquiry into the matter to be made public.

"As a nurse myself, either the proper procedures weren't in place or they weren't followed in Rockhampton," Ms Bates said.

"Our elderly Queenslanders are the most vulnerable to coronavirus and residents across all 16 state-run homes must be the priority."