Helen Haines has welcomed common sense change to the NSW Government’s COVID-19 border permit system that prevented health care staff in regional hospitals from going to work last week.

The Independent Member for Indi said she was relieved that permit restrictions for health workers that came into force on July 22 would be amended.

NSW Health on Friday night confirmed with Northeast Health Wangaratta that staff living in NSW border communities, such as Albury, would no longer have to self-isolate when they returned home from their daily work.

The tightened restrictions prevented up to 80 frontline NHW staff from travelling to Wangaratta for work for three days, disrupting surgery, cancer care and complicating NHW’s COVID-19 response. Smaller health services, aged care and community health programs were similarly affected.

“The past few days have been very challenging for our rural health services and the patients who rely on the committed care and support of these services’ medical, nursing, allied health and administrative staff,” Dr Haines said.

“It has placed an enormous amount of stress on workforce and on our communities.

“It’s a situation that could have been avoided with good consultation and it’s one I would not want to see repeated.”

Dr Haines said the illogical restrictions imposed by the NSW Government’s tighter border permit changes were harsher than on people living in Melbourne or Sydney – cities which have lockdowns and other COVID-19 containment measures in place.

“COVID-19 is not out of control in our border communities,” she said.

“I recognise the NSW Government’s right to put measures in place to contain COVID-19, but there has been no incidence of community transmission in our North East and border communities.

“Its decision to tighten border restrictions from July 22 has failed to account for this fact and I’m very concerned it will have a long-term impact on people’s work, business and our regional economy.

“NSW must recognise the true living and working area of our border communities is broader than the artificially imposed ‘blue zone’.”

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