Two senior nurses in the emergency department at The Royal Melbourne Hospital have tested positive to the virus along with two frontline emergency workers at Sunshine Hospital in the city’s west.
Contact tracing is under way and at least 15 staff at the Royal Melbourne Hospital are self-isolating, while they await test results.
A cluster in the Northern Hospital’s emergency department has also blown out to 11 people, including nine frontline workers and two household contacts of infected staff.
That outbreak has also forced at least two dozen hospital staff into quarantine while they await test results. Northern Hospital has repeatedly declined to comment further on the outbreak.
Dr Andrew Walby interviewed a healthcare worker for a role at St Vincent’s in Fitzroy last week.
“Out of an abundance of caution Andrew immediately self-isolated and was also tested for COVID-19,” a hospital spokeswoman said. “Andrew’s results have now come through and he has tested negative for COVID-19.”
The hospital cancelled subsequent interviews for the role once it was revealed the worker had tested positive. It said strict social distancing protocols were upheld at all times during the interview process. All interviews for the job are now being conducted via video link.
Confirmation of the scare came a day after a doctor at St Vincent’s tested positive to the virus, putting at least 15 staff into quarantine after potential exposure.
Australian Medical Association Victorian president Julian Rait said he is growing increasingly worried about how the state’s healthcare system will cope with a surge in demand brought on by rising coronavirus cases if doctors and nurses are sidelined due to outbreaks in emergency departments.
“I’m very concerned not only about the welfare of the staff but the system as it is,” Associate Professor Rait said.
“If workers are infected in emergency departments and their contacts have to be removed from the workplace, at least until they have isolated and been tested, this is going to put huge pressure on a critical part of healthcare infrastructure.”
Professor Rait said it was critical that hospitals consider bringing in the mandatory use of surgical masks in clinical areas at all times for staff and visitors.
Under new advice, staff in clinical areas are required to wear a mask at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Northern Hospital, the Austin and The Alfred hospital.
Two more nurses who attended a group training session at the Royal Melbourne Hospital were also diagnosed with coronavirus this week.
Brunswick Private Hospital in Melbourne’s inner north remains closed for new admissions after four patients and a healthcare worker tested positive to the virus on Wednesday.
At least one nurse at The Alfred has tested positive this week, while four Victorian paramedics have been infected and are in isolation.
A rehabilitation patient at the Epworth Hospital in Hawthorn was also infected with the virus.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Brunswick Private Hospital and Western Health – which oversees Sunshine Hospital – were contacted for comment.
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Melissa Cunningham is The Age’s health reporter.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.