Legislative Council Thursday 4 June, 2020
Ms FORREST question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT -
With regard to the resumption of elective surgery in Tasmania, noting that many hospitals on the mainland are requiring all elective surgery patients to have a COVID-19 test and self-isolate from the time of the test until admission for elective surgery and acknowledging that Tasmanian patients are being screened using a self-reporting screening tool:
1. Has consideration been given to COVID-19 testing of all booked elective surgery patients within a short time before planned admission;
a. If so;
i. Are these patients then required to self-isolate prior to admission; and
ii. Has this been implemented across all sites?
b. If not;
i. In light of this practice being adopted by many mainland hospitals why is this not being considered; and
ii. Will this option be considered as a measure to enhance the protection of front line staff and their families and other patients?
2. Does the Minister believe this would provide an additional tool to enhance the screening tool to protect patients, staff and their families?
1. Testing of COVID-19 for patients prior to elective surgery was considered and consulted on as part of the most recent cohort group expansion.
Clinicians were concerned that a requirement to test all booked elective surgery patients before a planned admission had the potential to unnecessarily delay surgery for these patients, and felt that appropriate measures were already in place to enable people to receive surgery in accordance with best practice infection control protocols that minimise risk to patients, their families and staff.
Elective surgery patients who have risk factors for COVID exposure and clinical symptoms will either be tested or identified as suspected of having COVID and treated with additional precautions with the addition of N95 masks worn by staff for aerosol generating procedures (e.g. intubation, oral and airway surgery, gastroscopy) and surgery is undertaken in a dedicated COVID theatre.
For anyone in quarantine or isolation, the hospital Surgical and Perioperative Services Department will consider if surgery can be delayed until the person’s period of isolation or quarantine is complete.
2. Tasmania’s approach to testing people for COVID-19 is similar to other States and Territories, and is based on information from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and advice from Public Health Services.
The Committee is made up of Chief Health Officers from all Australian States and Territories and is the main national expert committee for advice about COVID-19 in Australia.
We will continue to take the advice of the Tasmanian Chief Medical Officer and Public Health Services, who are regularly reviewing and considering emerging evidence on best practice COVID-19 precautions in healthcare settings.