Which hospitals are ramping up covid mandates?

3 minute read

Policies vary between jurisdictions but covid numbers are driving the reintroduction of infection controls in public hospitals.

Canberra Health Services has reintroduced mask mandates across ACT public hospital and health centres and Victorian hospitals have escalated to stage 2 infection-control measures as covid rates surge across all states and territories.

Alongside masking requirements, PCR-testing and visitor limitations to two people per patient have also been implemented temporarily across ACT public health services after 242 covid cases were reported from 24 to 30 May compared to 42 cases at the start of April, with 67 hospitalisations and four deaths reported in the same period.

The Victorian Department of Health told our sister publication Health Services Daily it had also ramped up infection-control measures to stage 2 under the state’s Health Response System to curb the growing numbers of covid cases, with 319 patients hospitalised in the past week.

Despite the escalation, responsibility for establishing covid mitigation strategies, including mask mandates and PCR testing, would remain in the hands of hospitals themselves, the department said. 

“Throughout the pandemic there has been an operational staged response to assist health services respond to increasing covid cases – a roadmap to guide hospital responses has also been in place since June 2022,” a VicHealth spokesperson told HSD.

“Moving to stage two allows health services to put additional strategies in place based on local demand, to protect staff, patients and visitors – and it’s not expected to interrupt clinical care, including planned surgery.

“Health services are well prepared and well equipped to handle these escalations – we will continue to monitor the situation as it progresses.”

In Queensland, Metro North Hospital and Health Service was the only jurisdiction to confirm an escalation of its infection-control strategy, with a spokesperson informing HSD that Tier 1 measures would be implemented across its public hospitals and clinics from 6 June onwards.

“Metro North is making a planned transition to Tier 1 in our Acute Respiratory Illness (ARI) response plan tomorrow, Thursday 6 June, [with] all staff encouraged to wear masks in clinical areas, in line with the PPE guidelines,” the MNHHS spokesperson said.

“Visitors will be encouraged to wear a mask, sanitise hands when coming and going, and stay away if they have respiratory illness symptoms. Masks and hand sanitiser will be provided at facility entrances.

“Masking is guided by the Recommended PPE Escalation for ARI according to Tier Response (in addition to standard precautions if indicated for another reason) as per Metro North Health Standard 3 – ‘Preventing and Controlling Healthcare associated infections’.”

No masking requirements are currently in effect across Torres and Cape, Central West, and South West HHS facilities, a spokesperson for the services confirmed, although patients could be required to mask under “certain circumstances” in accordance with current infection control practices.

North West HHS, Gold Coast Health, Darling Downs and Wide Bay HHS also confirmed no masking directives were in place across their jurisdictions, while Sunshine Coast HHS and Cairns and Hinterland HHS said they followed current Queensland Health advice with no existing public health directives mandating masks in public health settings.

In Queensland 1895 covid cases and 283 hospitalisations were reported across the state in the past week, with 58% of hospitalisations among those aged 75 and over, based on Queensland Health data extracted on 3 June.

In NSW, 4262 covid cases and just over 200 hospitalisations were reported in the week ending 25 May. NSW Health did not respond to HSD’s request for comment before deadline.

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