Dr. Paul Finlay worked at Sydney Airport to screen passengers with health checks, including pregnant women and people with dementia and severe mental illness. He said state and federal governments have not responded well to the crisis. “There is no coordination between the different ministries of the same level of government. Interaction between the state and the federal government is hostile. “
Finlay said it is true that the majority of coronavirus cases in Australia to date have been from returning travelers, a small number of returning travelers now being taken to hotels for forced quarantine should be allowed to quarantine at their home for compassionate reasons.
Finlay said health workers could report vulnerable people, such as the elderly or the mentally ill, with NSW Health for a 14-day mandatory quarantine exemption in city hotels.
“So far, the Department of Health has told me that everyone I consider vulnerable has been granted exemption,” said Finlay on Saturday. “Today I learned it was a lie. It had not been done. “
“They’re all still in the hotel rooms. And it’s worse than prison. They have cramped rooms with windows that don’t open, no balconies, and are not allowed to leave, even for fresh air and exercise. Some hotels do not clean rooms for two weeks and do not offer people products to clean their own bathrooms. “
Finlay said that a person had been informed that a family member could deliver a package of food to him. The family member included a bottle of wine which the hotel confiscated. He described the hotel detainees as “detainees” and said that many did not have access to laundry facilities. One hotel, the Hilton, charged $ 20 for laundry, he said. It is not covered by the government.
One of the vulnerable passengers Finlay reported for a medical exemption from staying in a hotel was a man who had survived in a fifth-floor hotel room in Kathmandu during the deadly earthquakes in Nepal in 2015. He had been trapped for a while with corpses nearby.
“Of course, he didn’t want to end up in a hotel with windows that wouldn’t open, no balcony, and no way out of the room to exercise and feel normal,” said Finlay. “He had serious fears for his sanity and I accepted. I referred her case several times to the Ministry of Health without any communication with me and no action taken. “
Another vulnerable woman discovered that she was about 15 weeks pregnant. Since she was on a remote island before returning to Australia, she has so far had no prenatal screening and this is her first pregnancy. She had arranged to be seen by an obstetrician in her hometown of Hobart but was unable to travel to Tasmania due to strict travel restrictions, which meant that even after completing two weeks of isolation in New South Wales, she and her husband would be required to do the same in Tasmania.
“She works in an emergency department,” said Finlay. “She was very worried about not having prenatal screening before the end of the other four weeks. She advised me that she had spoken to the doctor on site and that she was not allowed out of her room to be able to get prenatal screening. “
Finlay also shared concerns about other quarantine arrivals, including a woman with a newborn baby who he says is at high risk of developing postnatal depression, and an older couple whose husband is afflicted dementia.
“They had to be isolated in a hotel when they had a house in Sydney,” said Finlay. “The unfamiliar environment and childbirth are likely to cause behavior problems for her husband.”
He said that a paraplegic woman with a catheter who needed an air mattress to avoid pressure sores, and who had a caregiver who helped her with tasks such as bathing, was not allowed to be taken to Wollongong to her house, which she and her friends had ensured had provisions for her return.
“To my knowledge, she’s still languishing in a hotel in Sydney,” said Finlay. “I cannot in good conscience sit down and wait for the authorities to rectify all of this because there is evidence that they know and will always do nothing. I would rather be in prison than close my eyes after days of trying to deal with all of this through official channels. “
NSW police and the Hilton were contacted for comment. In a statement, NSW Health confirmed that the Public Health Order contains provisions for exemptions. The department did not respond to questions about the number of these exemptions granted. The statement said the Minister of Health had delegated authority to grant waivers to a panel of experienced doctors.
“Each request for exemption is examined individually, and a significant number of exemptions have already been granted,” the statement said.
“Each hotel has on-site nursing care and a daily medical presence. Travelers can access this medical service. Exemption requests are also intensified by this avenue. Requests for medical or compassionate care exemptions can also be submitted by travelers to the Australian Department of Health, which forwards them to NSW Health. “
Do you know more? [email protected]