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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Blunt side of tourism’s double edged sword as COVID bears down on Northern Rivers

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Tamara Smith MP says the reopening of the Northern Rivers has resulted in an upsurge of COVID-19 cases which has led to a high demand for COVID tests. Photo Tree Faerie.

Whilst there are many benefits to being a popular tourist area, rising COVID-19 case numbers, overloaded testing facilities, and pressure on local hospitals on the Far North Coast are amongst the costs.

The Member for Ballina, Tamara Smith has written to the New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet about the COVID-19 crisis and how it is affecting the Northern Rivers.

Ms Smith says that recently the Premier announced the reopening of New South Wales despite indications that this decision could place enormous pressure on regional health services – particularly in the Ballina electorate – with 16 flights a day of visitors arriving since December, many of you whom have accessed PCR testing and booster appointments.

Northern Rivers upsurge of cases

‘The reopening has resulted in an upsurge of COVID-19 cases in the northern rivers which has led to a high demand for COVID tests.’

The extra load on our systems has contributed to locals not being able to access testing and vaccinations services in a reasonable time frame.

Ms Smith says a popular tourist destination and a border zone, the community faces additional pressures from the Queensland government testing requirements. ‘Without additional support, our community cannot cope with the growing number of cases and high testing demands.’

Gone from heavily surveyed to fend for yourselves

Ms Smith said today that we have gone from being heavily surveyed to the other extreme of ‘fend for yourselves’.

Ms Smith says that we have seen our healthcare system unable to sustain the heavy workloads resulting from the reopening of the state. ‘Health staff are exhausted and overworked and yet are not being offered any incentive to effectively manage the demands from a community in which the virus is spreading exponentially. This has led to staff shortages in our regional healthcare system.

‘In addition, local businesses are closing because their employees are spending countless hours trying to get tested and then isolating while waiting for results.’

Strategic planning and fundamentals

Ms Smith said what we need is strategic planning and the supply of fundamentals.

‘I am urgently asking the Premier to give our community free and accessible RAT tests to ease the pressure on the test sites, provide additional resources for hospitals, give frontline health workers incentive to manage their unsustainable workloads, and give the local businesses the financial support they need to survive their staffing shortages.’

Ms Smith says she is yet to receive a response.


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  1. “Ms Smith”‘s protestation is all very good but like all the governments response to this plague , it is way too little WAY too late. Didn’t she know what ” Opening up ” would have on the old and vulnerable in Ballina ? Hasn’t she seen the projections of how many deaths this will cause ? Is there one politician anywhere with half a brain, or has that been sun-contracted out to ‘private industry’ ?Federal, State and local government have failed monumentally , none of this is new and isn’t ‘rocket science’ and in spite of the brilliant self control of the majority of citizens, we are about to pay a very heavy toll for government incompetence.

    • What’s the”heavy toll”? We have 10’s of thousands getting infected daily, and that’s just the ones we know about, and still only a small amount in hospital overnight and even smaller amount in ICU. People are not dropping like flies. 95% vaccinations and it’s time for life to resume, stop being so frightened and start living. They told you, you are double vaxed, you have nothing to fear. So why so scared, do you think they lied to you? Perhaps they have told lots of lies and you just believe what suits you, like fear and drama.

      • No-one said “”ÿou are double vaxxed, you have nothing to fear” How many times do you have to tell a nutter the vaccines are not 100% effective.? Every reasonable person knows the vaccines were anything from 40 % to 90% effective. Why do all the nutters keep bringing this up?

  2. Yet another report by the echo today tells us there are 35 cases in hospital and 4 in ICU. Hardly overflowing at the seams wouldn’t you say? Fear is the problem, everyone so scared and rushing to get tested, if you’re vaxed and the people you are trying to protect are vaxed, what’s the problem? Didn’t you get vaxed in order to be safe? More political grandstanding, more fear being created. It’s ridiculous, life goes on and no matter how hard you try to avoid it, death is the outcome. Tens of thousands of cases everyday and still only just over 100 in ICU, and 1000 in hospital. What the media teiis you are lies, the hospitals are being over run by frightened people rushing in there because they are positive, not because they are really sick. They spend a few hours there and are sent home, because they don’t need hospital care. This whole 2 year saga is an embarrassment.

    • Goodness me “Get Real” you should do some research before spouting off untruths. There are presently Covid patients in corridors at Tweed Hospital because there are no beds for them. The hospital has had an alarming number of resignations of their nursing staff having had enough of double shifts and working in a high risk situation. Byron Hospital (barely a hospital) last week had ambulance waits averaging six hours to transfer sick patients to Lismore Base Hospital. Your conspiracy theory that the media is ‘telling us lies” should only relate to Sky News and the Murdoch Press!
      Unless you sit outside hospitals surveying inpatients over their level of fear compared to their actual degree of illness you have no clue to presume ‘they are not really sick”. Your reduction of a pandemic to an “embarrassment” and ” a two year saga” is so much fantasy Disney would need ten studios to accommodate your idiocy. Until you see a Covid patient that wasn’t so lucky to “just get over it” you have no idea of the incredible pain involved in many sufferers. If anyone is “grandstanding’ it’s you, on a soapbox, with a big mouth and no clue.

    • There’s thousands unable to be admitted to hospitals but needing to be that aren’t in these figures. Unfortunately those 4 ICU beds are the only ones available for Covid in the entire region, as there are only enough trained staff for that many.

      • Meh..I’ve seen Byron hospital overwhelmed heaps well BEFORE any of this kabuki theatre was politically thrust upon us last year..give us a break. The politicisation of health system..$88 billion per year and they can’t cope? Cmon..

    • What is this Get Real, some sort of macho “I’m not scared of no little virus” posturing? I could take your estimation of the situation or that of countless workers on the front line. Including this recent one reported in the Echo: https://www.echo.net.au/2022/01/nurse-speaks-of-virus-impacts-on-hospitals/

      We are indeed fortunate that this variant that is taking off at such a pace – such that our cases per capita now rival the USA – seems to be resulting in fewer hospitalisations, but it’s all still a numbers game. Remember a few things:
      * exponential growth – we’ve (Byron Shire) gone from a few new cases a day a couple of weeks ago to over 150 reasonably regularly. These numbers represent the people persevering with the testing queues and are up to a week out of date because that’s how long the results are taking. It doesn’t count those taking a RAT.
      * we had one death reported a couple of days ago – today there are 3
      * there is always a lag time between new infections and presentations to hospital – including deaths. It can take quite a while to die of Covid, I’m told.

      Look, I don’t like panic and alarmism either but with issues of health, wellbeing, life and death a bit of caution doesn’t go astray.

      As for “ if you’re vaxed and the people you are trying to protect are vaxed, what’s the problem? Didn’t you get vaxed in order to be safe?” – this is such an oft repeated and refuted non argument it amazes me that it’s still getting a run. Please do a bit of reading.

  3. I’ve heard the wait times at Tweed Hospital are particularly bad? Seriously ill people waiting in tents in the pouring rain to get care? We’ve had 3 deaths – how many of these were avoidable if this whole thing had been handled with more logistical care and better communication and timing etc? It’s a shambles. Yes, the ridiculous swing of extremes, from hardcore authoritarian mandates to ‘personal responsibility/let her rip/yer on yer own’ … And sadly I do have to agree that it does seem too little/too late to be hearing from Ms Smith on this … You do have to wonder, and dream of, what a truly caring and collaborative leadership/gov would look like. Certainly not like what we currently have.

  4. Thank you Tamara,

    It must be difficult having to watch this blatantly incompetent government create so much damage and stress in our region, when the Greens and Labor have no power to provide better medical resources, etc.

    With only 4 ICU beds in the region for Covid, hospitals already full and overflowing, and staff overstretched and exhausted it’s frightening to know treatment for emergencies is likely to be held up and more people could die.

    Where’s Kevin Hogan who should be representing our community’s needs at this critical time? Nowhere in sight it seems, unsurprisingly.

  5. Get real is obviously not a nurse or a doctor in a public hospital.
    Glad he/she is looking forward to the ‘afterlife’.

  6. Chuck out the ‘human’ in the ‘being’ & go get an idiot test because the summary
    is backside up. You’ll know it if you end up in an ICU.

  7. Ballina airport is a super spreader site. Travelers are jam packed and cannot social distance. Staff including security and car hire people are getting Covid. Ballina council is the owner and nothing is being done about it.


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