WA hospitals wind back COVID-19 screening

West Australian hospitals will scale back their COVID-19 screening protocols in a bid to free up staff and allow more visitors.

Public hospitals will shift from “red alert” to a new blue alert level from August 15, bringing an end to several months of heightened precautions.

Patients arriving at Perth hospitals had been required to undergo a rapid antigen test before being admitted.Credit:Getty Images

Patients presenting at emergency departments will only be required to undergo rapid antigen tests upon arrival if they are symptomatic.

The testing requirement will also be removed for asymptomatic visitors unless they are visiting a high-risk area or vulnerable patients.

Visitors must still show proof of vaccination but staff will conduct spot checks rather than mass inspections.

Healthcare workers who had been required to wear N95-style masks across all clinical areas will now only need to do so when caring for vulnerable patients or working in high-risk areas. Surgical masks must be worn elsewhere.

The changes come as hospitals continue to struggle with getting patients through emergency departments and into beds.

Ambulances spent a record 6982 hours ramped outside hospitals in July.

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson says the changes will help ensure effective patient flow and free up frontline health staff.

“This is a measured approach to scaling back the COVID response in hospitals, which has been endorsed by the chief health officer, and expert infection control teams from the WA health system,” Sanderson said on Tuesday.

“In a time when WA has passed its most recent peak of COVID-19, it makes sense to take practical, reasonable measures to free up some burdens, and support healthcare workers and families supporting their loved ones in hospital.”

A limit of two visitors per patient will remain but may be extended by staff under certain circumstances.

Visiting hours will be extended at every hospital and essential visitors will be allowed to visit outside the standard hours.

WA Health on Tuesday reported 2965 new COVID-19 cases. There were 358 people in hospital including 11 in intensive care.

Australian Medical Association WA president Mark Duncan-Smith last month warned changing the screening protocols would make it easier for the virus to spread in hospitals.

“The medical system is on its knees at the moment … our system does not have enough beds to allow this to go up much more,” he said.


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