Department of Health, stop blocking doctors from testing for Corona Virus in Australia

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Corona Virus Australia Petition started this petition to Australia Department of Health

Currently in Australia, the Department of Health is blocking doctors from testing for Corona virus when it is medically needed, even in patients who have all the symptoms to suggest a positive diagnosis and warrant pathology tests to check or confirm. With tens of thousands of people from China flying globally and to Australia for the new year holiday season, it is important Department of Health change the criteria that they allow doctors to test for Corona virus to be more inclusive of everyone who could potentially have the virus. Currently all GPs and hospital doctors and specialists are mandated to call Department of Health to get any Corona virus pathology order test approved by Department of Health before ordering the pathology test. The only criteria Department of Health will approve Corona virus testing are:

-          People who have been in direct contact with someone who has a confirmed diagnosis of the corona virus, and/or

-          People who have travelled to Wuhan and symptoms started within 14 days of travel

If you do not believe this ask your local GP, I sought this in writing from my GP because he could not test me despite me having all the symptoms of Corona virus and being homeless in Melbourne over Chinese new year holiday season. I was told even if I go to hospital to get tested the doctors cannot get the test approved by Department of Health then they cannot order the pathology test. It is currently the biggest travel period of the whole year in all of China and global travel overseas from China. Also many in China will be trying to get out ASAP of China and only 20 cities in China have been quarantined. Many who cannot fly will and have already travelled to other areas they can fly, because majority of people in China want to get out of China due to how scared the media has made everyone about the virus and due to the horror for everyone and families impacted and grieving those who have died and the fear and horror of losing loved ones has been enormous especially in China who are most affected. Department of Health has only included Wuhan, when thousands of people outside of Wuhan in other areas of China also have confirmed diagnoses and many do not know they are infected and are still travelling whilst carrying the virus. Many Chinese peoples are wealthy and may pay authorities off money to escape lockdown zones or to try to get to areas they can fly to get out of the country. The numbers being recorded are lower than the reality of

 (which means it is larger than numbers recorded, and they also don’t have the resources in many provinces to confirm fast enough cause of death so many dying may go undetected as corona virus related deaths). Because the incubation period (time someone gets infected to when they start showing symptoms) is 2 week timeframe, health workers will not know for another 2 weeks how much the virus is multiplying in each city and country worldwide that is affected.

Within a very short period of time since the virus started, there have now been more than 7700 cases worldwide (see New York Times article 29/01/2020), and the World Health Organisation are divided 50-50 on declaring a global health emergency. The Department of Health says there are currently two confirmed cases in Australia and 5 questionable cases, but this is not tracking the virus correctly because they are not testing majority of people who consult with their GP or hospital who show the symptoms of corona virus. I understand it would flood / overflow pathology system if everyone with virus symptoms were tested, and that corona virus tests need to be prioritised for the most unwell urgently. The Department of Health could work around these issues by asking doctors to test patients for other flu’s and influenza’s and other viruses first, then if results came back negative then they could test for Corona virus and write priority or non-urgent on the pathology form depending on how sick the person is and other risk factors including: their age, disabilities, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status, chronic illness, homeless, etc. For patients who are severely sick should be tested for Corona virus and other flu’s immediately on priority access and sent to Emergency Department.   However, testing only for influenza and other flu’s and viruses in patients with confirmed flu or other virus diagnoses, may still miss them from being diagnosed with corona virus (if they had this additionally  to a diagnosed flu and/or a different virus as well), and people need to know to be quarantined and stop spreading the virus as its highly transmittable / contagious (even doctors overseas wearing biohazard suits are still catching it).  So the only way to effectively stop it spreading in Australia is to test everyone who has the corona virus symptoms for corona virus, both in first week of them getting it and second week of them getting it (if first week test came back negative, given the 2 week incubation period). I don’t want all Australians to be quarantined / in lock down in future, or see the most disadvantaged and at risk people/groups die in Australia from the virus in future, so I feel this measure of enabling more testing for Corona virus (urgent and non-urgent priority with pathology), that this measure is better safe than sorry and will effectively track corona virus spreading in Australia and cities so people can make informed decisions about whether they want to leave cities for rural or remote areas, or stay. We need to hold our government accountable to protecting people instead of letting them pick and choose which medical advice they listen to instead of using common sense.  

The American medical association is recommending N95 respirators offer more protection than P2 disposable masks, offer more protection than flu masks, so Department of Health need to update their guidelines to inform people how to better protect themselves and have ways for people who are immune impaired and/or immune deficient, who want to buy biohazard masks to buy these. I live with asthma and lung disability that impact my immune system and I find the N95 respirator doesn’t make my asthma worse and has better ventilation (can buy from Bunnings) but the disposable masks all make my asthma and lung disabilities worse because you are mostly recycling your own oxygen in them which makes you sick and tired.  If the Department of Health upgraded to America’s standards/ recommendations, then more people would be buying N95 ventilators and I would not have the police repeatedly called on me accused of wearing a “gas mask” or have security accusing me of being infected with corona virus, when I am just wearing the mask to protect myself. If more people started wearing these more people would understand they are protecting themselves and not be scared they are infected themselves. 

The current policy means many people who catch the virus, could be dead before they get diagnosed with the virus in Australia, whilst also spreading it to many other people who could also potentially die if they have any health and/or social risk factors that impact their ability to fight the virus e.g. elderly, disabled, chronically ill, homeless, escaped family violence, immune system impairment, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Status, etc.  I think it’s better safe than sorry to have a health response to the virus that protects everyone and helps people access medical treatment they need (and to decide if they need to quarantine themselves or not), than to have a health response that stops majority of people who need testing getting tested because this will continue to spread the virus which has already been multiplying at extremely fast rates exponentially in China and globally.  This virus has potential to wipe out the most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations worldwide, so it important for our government to do more to contain the virus.

Every health decision our government makes has a ripple effect on everyone impacted, so I hope our government listen to the people. I am disabled and homeless, I do not have capacity to spread this petition myself, please help me spread it as far and wide as possible, and please ask others to please help spread it too. Thank you for your time reading this. 

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