President’s Blog: Which part of ‘this should never happen again’ do we need to reiterate here? | AMA (WA)


Dr Mark Duncan-Smith

President’s Blog: Which part of ‘this should never happen again’ do we need to reiterate here?

Thursday July 29, 2021

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith, AMA (WA) President

It’s a matter of weeks since I was elected President of the AMA (WA). Who would have thought we’d be in lockdown just a week after the wild success of MEDCON21? And who could have guessed much of the eastern part of the continent would subsequently be in lockdown, with all sorts of border restrictions put in place by the WA Government?

Well, given that we are still grappling with deficiencies in safeguards against airborne transmission of the virus and jurisdictions throughout the country continue using inadequate hotel quarantine, it was never a big stretch to think the rampant and highly infectious Delta strain could have its way in Australia.

New South Wales has really found itself in a world of pain, with lockdown fits and starts (AKA mockdown) contributing to an escalating situation that puts the whole country at risk, including Western Australia.


It doesn’t help that we continue to score own goals with our COVID-19 management, despite the WA Government doing a great job with border control measures.

A couple of incidents, in recent weeks, have shown a head-scratchingly lax approach to managing COVID-19 patients interacting with our health system. Both involved maritime incidents. It’s important to recognise that we have an obligation under maritime law to care for those who require medical assistance at sea. Much of the care has been able to take place on ships, with COVID-19 infected maritime workers able to remain isolated on board. However, some particularly unwell people have required hospital care.

There was an unfortunate incident in Geraldton, where an incident with a lift in Geraldton Regional Hospital involving a crew member from MV Emerald Indah led to the isolation of one staff member and his time in the emergency department required testing for a number of people.

Then just this week we’ve had yet another incident with a lift at Fiona Stanley Hospital, after crew members from MV Darya Krishna were transferred there, exposing two unvaccinated hospital workers to COVID-19, who are now in hotel quarantine. Hopefully, they don’t get COVID there!

Which part of ‘this should never happen again’ do we need to reiterate here? Our over-run health system, with endless code yellows in our major public hospitals and ever-escalating levels of ambulance ramping, are highly unlikely to cope adequately with a COVID-19 outbreak, particularly one that comes from an own goal within the hospital system itself. That is where we send patients to protect them.

Under these circumstances, it was an unpleasant surprise to us that the draft Infrastructure Strategy pushed out timelines for the redevelopment of our ageing facilities at Sir Charles Gairdner and Royal Perth Hospitals. These are tired assets that are desperately in need of modernisation that requires capital investment. The crisis engulfing the health system demands it.

Listen out for me next Thursday on 96FM, when I chat live in the studio with Clairsy & Lisa from about 7.50 am-8.15 am. It’s way better to hit the radio waves to provide informed health advice, as the AMA (WA) provides than deal with endless waves of a deadly disease that we drastically need to stop in its tracks.

Hope you’re all shipshape (that is non-COVID ship shape) out there. Stay safe. The AMA (WA) will continue to advocate for your safety in these incredibly challenging times.