As a regular patient at Shoalhaven Cancer Care Clinic, Tammy could not be more be appreciative of the quality care and treatment she receives by all doctors and nurses.
The Nowra resident suffers from MS and has been receiving immune therapy for the past six months.
While her life-saving treatments are necessary, in recent times they've also served as a source of anxiety as a NSW Government ruling allows medical staff to travel from Shellharbour to Nowra, without a recent COVID-19 testing.
Although staff are fully vaccinated - all health care workers have been eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine since March 2021, and from November 30, all health care workers in NSW must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - Tammy harbours concerns about staff from Shellharbour being permitted to treat vulnerable members of our community.
"They are absolutely the best staff and the best facility but my concern is the 50km ruling the government has set which permits them to travel here for work," she said.
"What if they have contracted COVID and don't know about it yet?
"I'm generally very worried about the community and all the patients in the Cancer Care Clinic because we're all at very high risk with underlying conditions."
After learning staff were permitted to travel from Shellharbour to the Shoalhaven, she checked with the Service NSW COVID hotline to confirm if this was correct procedure.
She said she was shocked to learn this was permitted, and even more so to learn that if she was to have her treatment at the Milton Ulladulla Community Cancer Care instead, staff would be required to be tested for COVID-19 as this is outside of the 50km radius.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) addressed Tammy's concerns and said it takes every measure to ensure the safety of its staff and patients while continuing to provide essential health care services.
In a statement, a spokesperson advised ISLHD has a number of procedures in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 in our hospitals and facilities, including:
- COVID-19 health screening for anyone entering a hospital or health facility, including staff. This involves a symptom check and an exposure assessment, which includes confirming with staff that they have not had exposure to a COVID19 case or close contact of a case, or have been to an exposure venue or interstate risk location.
- All of the District's hospitals and services have strict public health and infection control protocols and all staff are provided with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and instruction on its use, which is based on national and international best practice.
- Where possible, physical distancing is practised within healthcare facilities, between healthcare workers and patients to limit the transmission of COVID-19.
As per the Public Health Order, there are testing requirements for staff from Greater Sydney (which includes Wollongong Local Government Area) working in facilities more than 50km outside the Greater Sydney region and these staff also require a travel permit.
Greater Sydney does not include Shellharbour Local Government Area for the purposes of this travel registration.
"Shoalhaven Hospital, David Berry Hospital and all Nowra based community services are within the 50km radius and therefore staff do not require a permit or a COVID-19 test when travelling from Greater Sydney to work at these sites," the spokesperson said.