The Australian Medical Association says Tasmania needs access to ‘medi-Hotel’ quarantine isolation to support all patients who are infectious with COVID-19 but do not otherwise require hospitalisation.

“Tasmanians have the capacity to not just flatten the COVID-19 epidemic curve; we can crush it,” Professor John Burgess, President of AMA Tasmania said today.

They said it needed to be announced and implemented immediately.

The concept is to use self-contained hotel or motel rooms to accommodate people who need to be quarantined. Medi-hotels have been used in some Australian states like Victoria, NT and ACT to take pressure off hospitals. In 2017 WA commissioned privately built and operated medi-hotels that are still under construction.

“In line with best practice WHO recommendations, the AMA Tasmania calls for strict clinically-supervised quarantine isolation of all patients with active COVID-19 until viral shedding has ceased,” Prof Burgess said. “Patients with active COVID-19 must remain in strict isolation until medically cleared of active viral infection.”

The rationale is that the virus is ‘shed’ by patients with active COVID-19 resulting in contamination of the household environment when people are in home isolation. “The household environment must be considered an infection control risk and can remain so for some days after a patient has recovered,”he said.

The AMA views strict infection control measures and clinical monitoring as essential for all patients with active COVID-19, including those with mild symptoms who still shed active virus. Such control measures, they say, can help control the spread of the virus.

‘Crush the epidemic curve or overwhelm the health system are the options, they say, that we have in front of us. “This is a stark choice but getting behind effective isolation, hygiene and infection control measures are as important for someone who’s feeling well with active COVID-19 as well as for someone who’s very ill and requiring high level hospitalisation.”

Labor Labor Rebecca White backed the call, saying that action was now needed urgently.

“Procuring vacant hotels and other accommodation providers to provide a safe and secure place for individuals who need to quarantine but have no ability to do so in their own home is both achievable and necessary,” White said.

“Our hospitals are already at capacity and more is urgently needed to ensure Tasmania’s health system can cope in response to the threat of COVID-19.”

Hotel room usage would assist Tasmania’s hospitality sector which has been hard hit with the cancellation of large events and non-essential travel; hotel vacancy rates are high.

On Sunday UTAS announced that it was handing over 50 self-contained apartments in central Launceston (Fountainside) for use by the state government. On Monday morning, Premier Gutwein confirmed that they would be used for quarantine if required.

“Good isolation and infection control are basic preventative medicine – an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure,” concluded the AMA. “Stopping viral spread by adopting diligent infection control measures for the couple of weeks that a patient with COVID-19 is infectious is the foundation of everything else we do. Medi-Hotel isolation supports care while a patient is infectious and is an excellent solution that protects access to the scarce high-level hospital beds that severely unwell patients require.”

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