Eighty Northeast Health Wangaratta nurses, doctors, allied health and administration staff who live in border zone communities are not at work today because of the NSW Government’s draconian border restrictions.

Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines said the capacity of another 120 staff living in the border ‘blue zone’ to continue working at NHW was also threatened.

Dr Haines said essential rural health staff cannot obtain a permit to work in Wangaratta – 69 kilometres from Albury and 48km from Corowa – unless they self-isolate when they return home to the NSW side of the border at the end of their rostered shifts.

“The new permit rules mean that between shifts they have to self-isolate in their own homes away from other members of the same household,” she said.

“People who work for Albury Wodonga Health at its Albury campus but live in Beechworth, Yackandandah or Tallangatta – outside the defined border ‘blue zone’ – are affected in the same way.

“It’s a completely untenable situation. The NSW Government’s failure to consult, listen and use common sense when making its border closure rules has led to what we’ve feared. It’s made a crisis out of its effort to contain one.

“Across border communities we’re all wearing the consequences of these unrealistic border restrictions.

“I’ve been speaking with Northeast Health Wangaratta’s senior administration staff this morning. People’s lives are being turned upside down.

“Surgery at NHW today has been seriously disrupted and specialist surgery, including paediatric surgery scheduled for later in the week, has been cancelled.

“Nine staff members from the radiology department are impacted, reducing capacity for vital CT and MRI scans. NHW interim chief executive officer Tim Griffiths has told me that many staff are doing double shifts today. He said this cannot be sustained.

“The tightened border restrictions imposed by NSW are also affecting NHW’s capacity to deliver not only its usual vital health care but its local COVID-19 response, too.

“All regional health services met at 11:30 today to work out how functional health care can be maintained when essential staff are effectively prevented from coming to work, or risk serious penalties if they do work and don’t observe border permit rules.

“I wrote again to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian last night about the confusion, frustration and ambiguity created by her government’s border decisions and drew her particular attention to this disturbing impact on the delivery of regional health services.

“It’s critical that this is resolved today so the health and welfare of so many people are not at risk.”

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