Shocking claims about Aussie hotel quarantine
Hotel quarantine has become a controversial topic as Australia battles the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Some returned international travellers forced to spend 14 days in hotel rooms have spoken out about what they say is unfair treatment - while commentators and members of the public have scoffed at their concerns.
In an interview with Lisa Wilkinson on The Sunday Project, Perth GP Dr Julie Manasseh aired disturbing allegations about what she witnessed while caring for those in hotel quarantine.
Dr Manasseh accepted a short-term medical assignment three weeks ago, and with two hours' notice found herself in charge of 600 returned travellers required to enter hotel quarantine across two Perth hotels.
She claimed that for her first week in the job, overseeing hundreds of potentially infected people, she was given no PPE (personal protection equipment).
"It makes me feel very sad, ashamed and disappointed that this is the behaviour of our health department. They are supposed to be our leaders," she said.
Is WA Health releasing travellers meant to be in strict 14 day quarantine after just a few days because the patient “made the right calls”?— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) April 19, 2020
A Perth doctor tells all exclusively at 6.30 tonight on Sunday @theprojecttv @Channel10AU #Bali #coronavirus #TheProjectTV
All around the country Aussies have been doing the right thing to flatten the coronavirus curve. Everyone is working hard to try and keep everyone else around them safe. But one doctor in Western Australia says authorities there are flouting their own COVID-19 quarantine. pic.twitter.com/a8Bk9esrNo— The Project (@theprojecttv) April 19, 2020
Dr Manasseh was never told when a passenger in her care tested positive to coronavirus: "We, the doctors at the coal face, were never informed of any result, whether positive or negative, by the Health Department."
And while quarantined travellers complaining about their hotel conditions have raised the ire of some, Dr Manasseh said she was horrified by the what she witnessed.
One of her patients was a navy veteran, suffering from longtime PTSD. Shocking footage aired on The Sunday Project shows the man, half-naked and screaming, clearly distressed at his confinement:
"This was a man who had ample medical grounds for exemption," she said. "We just asked for him to have a room where he could have an outdoor area, to at least not be completely closed in."
Dr Manasseh said the request was knocked back "time and time again", until eventually he was moved to another hotel with a small garden.
It was when an ambulance arrived at the hotel that she hadn't ordered that Dr Manasseh said she discovered something truly disturbing: Travellers under her care were being released from quarantine early, without her approval.
The guest: An elderly woman with "dozens" of underlying medical conditions who'd only been in quarantine for four days after returning from Bali. Dr Manasseh said ambulance officers told her they'd received "some sort of directive from Public Health" to release the woman, who did not respond well to her release being challenged.
"She started threatening me that she would make sure I never worked again," Dr Manasseh said. "She goes, 'I had spoken to my GP. I told him I have claustrophobia and I hate being in a hotel room like this. And he made some phone calls. And that's why I'm being let out and you're trying to stop this.'"
After being taken to hospital, the woman was then returned to the hotel - but released again the following day when Dr Manasseh was off-duty.
And then came a phone call "to inform me I was no longer wanted to come back to the job by the Health Department".
A Whatasapp message from another doctor aired on The Sunday Project shows that Dr Manasseh isn't the only doctor who has seen guests released from quarantine early without sign-off:
Dr Manasseh called the situation "very, very dangerous … a disaster that is already happening."
Dr Andrew Miller, the WA President of the Australian Medical Association, told The Sunday Project that "if people have been let go from quarantine early, then that undermines the entire basis of what we're trying to do here.
"If people don't have to serve out their quarantine and go on their way, what basis would that be happening? I think there's questions to be answered there."
The Western Australia Health Department sent The Sunday Project a statement saying that some passengers have been released from quarantine early "due to medical reasons," as verified by their usual GP or an onsite clinician.
"However, these people are still required to remain in quarantine until they have served their 14-day period, but within a more appropriate setting for the condition, which is generally at their home."
They deny there was a lack of protective equipment available: "PPE was always available at Crown and is restocked as necessary."
Providing a separate statement, Health Care Australia said operational and contractual reasons prevented them from commenting on why Dr Manasseh was sacked.
Originally published as Shocking claims about hotel quarantine