Mixed feelings about NQ isolation in small towns
I AM writing today's column from one of the outreach clinic sites I visit in Karumba and the feeling on the ground here is a mix of nervousness and hope.
Nervousness because the population has a high proportion of vulnerable retirees who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection and they are a long way from help, but hope because the isolation may mean they can avoid the spread of infection entirely or at least limit the rate of cases.
The overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a given city or town will be the result of a number of factors, including access to primary health care and distance to travel to the nearest intensive care bed.
Most small towns rely on a small number of medical staff to provide essential medical services and with health workers forming a significant proportion of infected cases overseas there are many small towns with single doctors or nurses who are at risk of losing their entire health capability in one instant.
These issues require a national approach to predicting and responding to workforce needs.
Retrieval services across North Queensland already operate to near full capacity and their ability to cope with an increased number of patients requiring transfer is limited unless there is further investment.
There is currently a move from the Rural Doctors Association to urge the Government to invest in more aircraft or even involve the ADF to meet the predicted need, otherwise our rural areas are likely to suffer the burden of disease much higher than urban residents.
Grey nomads frequently visit the tropical climates at this time of year but this time they are largely unwelcome and are being strongly urged to return home.
Many towns like Karumba are shutting down the roads and limiting non-essential visitors as a means to reduce the community's exposure to the virus and this is obviously causing significant heartache for small businesses who rely on the tourism business.
Everyone across Australia has a role to play in minimising the spread of COVID-19 by following the isolation guidelines, the social distancing rules and by staying at home when they can. The burden of suffering will fall unevenly across the country unless we do so.