Northern Territory health professionals are currently training for a potential outbreak of coronavirus in remote Indigenous communities ahead of the Territory’s borders opening on Friday.
The National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC) is holding COVID-19 rapid response training for medical staff on the frontline, gearing up for a possible outbreak in remote Indigenous communities in the Territory. The training includes infection control in mock community outbreak scenarios.
The training comes as Chief Minister Michael Gunner reaffirmed the NT’s borders will reopen to the rest of the country on Friday. In the meantime, people from Victoria and NSW COVID-19 hotspot areas are permitted into the NT without being subjected to supervised quarantine, which will only be applied as of Friday – a date Mr Gunner selected last month bfore the recent interstate outbreaks.
The Australia Medical Association NT and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT have repeatedly been ignored over their calls to close the border outright to people from Victoria and New South Wales while those states deal with outbreaks and clusters of coronavirus.
Queensland has closed their borders to Victoria and identified NSW hotspots. South Australia has delayed reopening their borders after the health scares in those two states.
AMSA chief executive John Paterson said last week that people breaching quarantine orders showed self-quarantining was not working and presented a huge risk to the Territory’s Indigenous population.
“We have the most vulnerable population residing here in the Northern Territory,” he said. “If that virus ever got into one of those communities it would have a catastrophic impact on those communities.”
About 200 Northern Territory health care workers are expected to attend the training sessions in different areas in Alice Springs, Yulara, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy, and Borroloola, the NCCTRC said.
The organisation said to date, 22 health care workers including doctors, nurses, and hospital management staff have been given a crash course in screening and swabbing people while maintaining their personal safety.
Part of the training focuses on infection control and using mock community settings at a training facility in the rural area.
Trauma Response Centre director Abigail Trewin said the training will allow the medical sector to up skill their staff in case of an outbreak in communities across the Territory.
“Our role is to build a surge workforce that can come in and appropriately manage and support the team already on the ground working on these communities,” Ms Trewin said.
“We are focused on building larger teams that can support quarantining of communities, remembering that it is a very stressful time for everybody and we need to look after the welfare as well as the medical care of the people in those communities.”
In May, the Gunner Government admitted sending body bags to remote communities in preparation for coronavirus outbreaks its modelling showed could have left 2000 Territorians dead.