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August 15, 2022

COVID, hospitals, and mask wearing

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Aslan Shand

If you have pre-existing health conditions, or you are associated with people who are at risk if they contract COVID-19, the impact of other people not taking basic COVID precautions can be highly stressful.

Highlighting the issue, one concerned Northern Rivers resident wrote to The Echo raising concerns over the difference in the mask-wearing behaviour that they see between Tweed and Byron hospitals.

‘I regularly drive older friends to appointments at Tweed and Byron hospitals. When I go to Tweed, everyone seems to be masked and, though busy, are social distancing… However, this is not the same at Byron,’ they say in their missive.

‘Although there is a check at the door [of Byron Hospital] and masks are provided to visitors, most of the staff around reception and coming from the rear areas are not masked. My friends tell me staff they consult are often not masked either.

‘They need to have treatment but are scared to be inside Byron.’

Responding to the concerns, a Northern NSW Local Health District spokesperson told The Echo that ‘It is always reassuring when community members raise concerns regarding strategies aimed at preventing the risk of COVID in our community, as this is a challenge where we all need to play a role.

‘Currently in our hospitals, not all staff are required to wear a mask. The principle is that any staff member working within 1.5 metres of a patient must wear a surgical mask, and if you are not providing care within this distance you do not need to wear a mask.

‘We have an ongoing communication program with our staff to ensure they are kept up to date with best practice principles for reducing cross infections so they remain safe, and our patients and visitors also remain safe.

‘As part of our communication program, the concerns you have raised from a community member will be provided to the management of Byron Central Hospital in order to remind them of these “best practice principles” and also to highlight that everyone is interested in how we are applying our own restrictions.’

Symptoms? Get tested

Everyone is reminded that the best way to stay safe for themselves and others is to practice good hygiene (eg washing hands often), follow physical distancing directions (eg stay 1.5m apart) and wear a facemask in certain circumstances.

COVID symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath, but may also include runny nose, headache, muscle or joint pains, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of sense of smell, altered sense of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms seek medical advice and get tested.

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  1. Lismore Base is the same as Byron in the Cancer Care reception area and perhaps elsewhere. Seems remiss of the Northern NSW Local Health District. They don’t seem to be much good at thinking things through.

  2. Come on! Whether you believe in mask-wearing or not
    it is essential that whatever is seen as the safest way
    of dealing with patients & visitors to Lismore or Byron
    hospitals is to stick with the needs of those being
    treated for any form of illness – & that includes visitors
    & staff. What’s happening now is – some people in
    need of medical support for a variety of reasons are
    afraid to seek help from professional care givers as
    well as specialists. Just wear a mask. It’s not much to
    ask. Life is worth living for.


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