New confirmed infection for hospital health worker

HEALTH officials are likely to force at least 20 people into immediate isolation and have launched an extensive contact tracing effort after a Cairns health worker contracted a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service issued a staff memo this morning warning there was a confirmed case of coronavirus in a staff member from Pathology Queensland's laboratory at Cairns Hospital last night.

A Cairns Hospital worker has been infected with COVID-19. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
A Cairns Hospital worker has been infected with COVID-19. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"The staff member is in isolation," the memo stated.

"Tropical Public Health Services has commenced extensive contact tracing.

"Our current priorities are stopping any potential spread of COVID-19, protecting our staff and ensuring the continuity of vital services so we can continue to provide exceptional care to our patients.

 

"Obviously this is a complex situation and we are working as quickly as possible to address all the implications.

"The Health Emergency Operations Centre is leading this work locally and Pathology Queensland is working to ensure continuity of pathology services."

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service has issued a memo after a staff member contracted a confirmed case of COVID-19. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service has issued a memo after a staff member contracted a confirmed case of COVID-19. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

It is understood the staff member, a lab worker, was infected with COVID-19 from outside the workplace, via another person who was previously confirmed with the virus.

At least 20 people are likely to be issued with self-isolation orders, after contact tracing identified them as being at risk of infection.

A terminal clean is being arranged for the laboratory and nearby equipment.

Access to Level 2 of the hospital's E Block has been restricted.

Staff are due to be updated at 10.30am.

A Cairns Hospital clinician, who did not want to be named, said staff were worried about the incident.

"It's quite a concern, as we have been doing everything we can to avoid the virus, while still doing our job every day at the hospital," they said.

"We use PPE (personal protective equipment) as much as we can, just because everyone is so worried about infection.

"This is going to be even more stressful for us in the days and weeks ahead."

It comes just days after the region began cautiously celebrating news of there being only six active cases in the area.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the US National Institutes of Health in February shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. PICTURE: NIAID-RML VIA AP
This undated electron microscope image made available by the US National Institutes of Health in February shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. PICTURE: NIAID-RML VIA AP

Cairns MP Michael Healy said his thoughts went out to the infected health worker and family.

"I wish them a speedy recovery," he said.

"I know we have the world's best medical facilities and I'm confident they will get the best care.

"Unfortunately it is a slight step back, but the reality is that is what a pandemic does.

"We will continue to work to ensure we practise our social distancing and keep driving those numbers south."

The Cairns Post understands Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young will provide further details later this morning.

Originally published as New COVID-19 case: Cairns health worker infected


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