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Statement About Wilcannia From Far West Local Health District Spokesperson

NSW Health and the Far West Local Health District (FWLHD) are working to support the Federal Government to address the unique challenges that face the small, isolated community of Wilcannia.

The FWLHD is working in collaboration at a local level with Maari Ma Aboriginal Health Corporation, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), Aboriginal Working Party and other services including Compass Housing, Aboriginal Affairs, the Primary Health Network (PHN), Western NSW LHD, the Education Department, the Central Darling Shire council and the local Police.

As part of NSW Health, the Far West public health unit and a COVID-19 Community Response Team are conducting daily health and welfare checks on positive cases in Wilcannia who are in home isolation, to ensure they and anyone living with them are safe and supported while in isolation.

The LHD is working as part of the local emergency management teams to ensure food parcels and other goods are delivered to those in isolation as they are required.

Daily health checks include medical assessments, food supply checks, general groceries and medical supply delivery. This includes checking on the welfare of household contacts.

In addition to this daily check extra follow ups are done as required. Any actions required are initiated through the public health unit, COVID-19 Community Response Team and agencies involved in providing help to the township and its residents.

The FWLHD is aware that some community members do not have access to a phone and provides a phone to that resident in addition to visiting the household.

The FWLHD is working in partnership with the RFDS and Maari Ma to deliver COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics in Wilcannia. COVID-19 testing is currently being offered daily at Wilcannia Swimming Pool, and Day 5 and Day 12 swabs are completed through home visits to close contacts isolating in the community. The Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) visited Wilcannia three weeks ago to offer door-to-door vaccination (first dose) to residents. This was rolled out in conjunction with the FWLHD and partners. The RFDS and Maari Ma Aboriginal Health Corporation are working together to ensure that second doses are delivered, as well as providing daily vaccination services to the community. 

FWLHD has surge plans in place if demand increases on the Wilcannia Health Service, including retrieval plans for positive cases (and other acute presentations) that require a higher level of care.

An awareness campaign was initiated in Wilcannia in collaboration with Maari Ma and the RFDS vaccination team to promote the awareness of the impacts of COVID-19 and keeping our communities safe.

COVID-19 information packs have been distributed into community with masks, hand sanitisers, COVID-19  and mental health hotline information.

COVID-19 prevention and safety information continues to be distributed into communities within the District with key messaging about the COVID-19 virus, symptoms, hand hygiene, information for parents and babies, staying at home, social distancing, and mental health. The national COVID hotline is being promoted should any community members have issues or concerns.

A major element in supporting the Wilcannia community during the pandemic and current outbreak is Community Support Accommodation (CSA) facilities. These have been established in Wilcannia to further assist the close contacts of people with COVID-19 to isolate safely and effectively, if they cannot do so at home. Throughout the pandemic the NSW Government has provided temporary accommodation options for people, including staff and community members, that need to self-isolate out-of-home to help protect their loved ones and reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

The Wilcannia CSA consists of a community of 30 motorhomes established at the council-owned Victory Park campervan site, which has access to power, water, and waste disposal services. The Victory Park CSA became operational on Monday, 6 September 2021. It will remain in operation until no longer required. A second CSA is located at another caravan park (using onsite facilities) just outside of Wilcannia.

The CSA provides a respectful and appropriate environment to safely isolate for the Wilcannia community.. Each motorhome has heating and cooling and includes living and bedroom accommodation, kitchen, toilet, a shower, and radio and television. The campervans are well insulated to cater for the variable weather in Far Western NSW. The CSAs also offer food and laundry services for those staying there.

Initial consultations were held with key members of the Wilcannia community regarding the deployment of motorhomes and it was positively received. Following community consultation, Health Infrastructure developed the plan for the CSA in Wilcannia in consultation with FWLHD, Central Darling Shire Council, Aboriginal Affairs NSW, the Local Emergency Management Committee, and the NSW Rural Fire Service.

All services in the FWLHD and at Wilcannia are working in collaboration to help stop the spread of COVID-19 within the community and District. Far West LHD has standard COVID-19 plans and procedures in place, which are being continuously enhanced to ensure the safe isolation of people with COVID-19.