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Council and West Moreton Health join forces during pandemic

After Queensland declared a public health emergency due to COVID-19 late in January 2020, West Moreton Health reached out to Ipswich City Council for assistance.

Council’s Environmental Health team has completed two stints at the coalface during the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Moreton health teams trained council’s Environmental Health officers to ensure they were able to effectively undertake the work they were asked to do.

Ipswich City Mayor Teresa Harding said that council was pleased to work alongside West Moreton Health to support the health of the community during the pandemic response.

 “The Environmental Health team have done a tremendous job and we are very proud of the way they were able to adapt and step up when duty called,” Mayor Harding said.

 “The work they undertook directly reduced the risk of further transmission of COVID-19 in our community.

“Council is only too happy to have worked alongside our region’s best paramedics, doctors, nurses and other dedicated healthcare staff in what has been a challenging year for healthcare professionals.”

Environmental Health officer Kataryna Hermans was one of six officers who assisted West Moreton Health and Queensland Health on and off since the coronavirus pandemic was declared.

Ms Hermans completed additional training in early April before hitting the ground running conducting a range of tasks under the public health legislation.

“At first we were proactively checking parks and public spaces to ensure people were social distancing and not gathering in large groups and educating people,” she said.

“We were also conducting welfare checks of people who were in quarantine.

“We would check they had enough supplies, medication and if they had developed any COVID symptoms.

“We would complete a questionnaire and make sure they were getting the right assistance.”

That work started to slow as the numbers came under control and Ms Hermans and her colleagues returned to their normal duties with council doing compliance and licensing checks which also came to include COVID compliance checks.

After the new cluster happened in Ipswich, the Ipswich City Council Environment Health team was called upon again.

“From the beginning of August until the end of September we teamed up, working shifts and our focus changed slightly,” Ms Hermans said.

“We were working closely with West Moreton Health issuing quarantine notices to people who had been identified by contact tracers as having been in direct contact with a known case.

“West Moreton Health issued over 1500 quarantine notices in this time which involved ensuring accurate data collection before emails were sent.”

As the situation on the ground would shift, so too would the environmental health officers.

As additional COVID-19 testing clinics would pop up, council employees would deploy to assist.

“After people were swabbed, if they were identified by the clinic nurses as having been in a tracing location of interest, they would then drive over to us so we could collect information that would then go on the a nursing team at Public Health,” she said.

West Moreton Health Director of Public and Environmental Health Bruce Morton said the assistance of Ipswich City Council Environmental Health Officers had been invaluable during the COVID responses.

“Local government has a long history of protecting public health and council’s EHOs have been willing and able to step into any role,” Mr Morton said.

“Their training meant they have had exactly the skills we needed at crucial moments.

“The ability to expand our Public Health Unit to meet demand through established disaster management arrangements has been integral to our success at reducing community transmission.”

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