• An Elderly Aboriginal woman is currently in Orange hospital battling the virus. (Central Western Daily)Source: Central Western Daily
The Orange Aboriginal Medical Service says questions must be asked about how the vulnerable woman contracted the virus
Keira Jenkins, Jodan Perry

26 Aug 2021 - 5:18 PM  UPDATED 27 Aug 2021 - 11:04 AM

An Elderly Aboriginal woman undergoing dialysis is now in Orange hospital after contracting COVID-19 this week.

The woman contracted the virus when she came in contact with a fellow dialysis patient who tested positive. 

She was hospitalised on Wednesday, with her family currently isolating.  

The Orange Aboriginal Medical Service CEO, Jamie Newman, told NITV News that there needs to be clarity around how she became infected.

‘How can that happen … some questions need to be asked,” he said. 

“If we’re following protocols, which you would expect is being implemented, followed and reviewed regularly by health systems, how do we have an Aboriginal Elder who is on dialysis now positive for COVID. 

“A lot of our people have a disconnect with services, and then something like this happens – it should never have happened.” 

In Wednesday’s Central West COVID update, CEO Scott McLachlan announced that the patient had come into contact with a previous case from Parkes that was also receiving dialysis treatment. 

“We're taking some extra steps to make sure that we can test very regularly all of the other patients and staff in that unit and try and get in front of the potential spread in a really critical environment,” he said. 

In a statement provided to NITV News on Friday, a spokesperson for the Health District denied that any transmission had occurred within Orange Hospital. 

There are currently two COVID-19 patients at the hospital and the spokesperson said it is capable of caring for patients who are COVID positive.  

“Orange Hospital has pandemic plans in place and is well prepared to care for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and can scale up the level of care needed including intensive care unit capacity if required, to ensure patients are safely managed,” they said. 

“Orange Hospital has the capability to receive and safely manage patients transferred from smaller areas of the District.” 

On Thursday another 3 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the town, which has a population of approximately 40-thousand people. Around 7 per cent of residents are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 

Mr Newman said the situation is “not looking good,” and that he is concerned for both the people who have tested positive and their families. 

He said the AMS doesn’t know where the family of the Elder in Orange Hospital is isolating, but wants to find out so they can offer any support. 

“That family of our Aunty in hospital (who are isolating) will be disconnected from their cultural and family supports, that’s going to take a toll on their wellbeing,” he said. 

“We don’t want to see our people in hospital … we don’t want to see our people isolated from their family connectedness.” 

Concerns over capacity 

Mr Newman also raised concerns about the capacity of hospitals and medical services in western NSW to treat COVID-19 patients, particularly from remote communities. 

The Far West remote town of Wilcannia currently has 49 cases of the virus, with community members telling NITV News of their difficulties in isolating while living in overcrowded housing. 

On Thursday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he is open to the idea of military field hospitals in the region, but vaccination is a priority.  

He also said that major base hospitals like Orange and Dubbo were capable of handling the current load. 

“If patients really are in need of additional assistance to the ICUs, it is still helpful to transfer them into a major metropolitan hospital," he said.

“At this point everything is being done that should be done.” 

About 120 Australian Defence Force staff have been deployed throughout Western New South Wales to assist community policing and to deliver and administer vaccines throughout the many remote communities.  

Jamie Newman said he was concerned that if people are being transferred to larger hospitals, outside their communities, they may not be getting the support they need. 

“We have to be mindful that our smaller communities don’t have that capability,” he said. 

“And if they’re bringing them into other towns, are they connecting with Aboriginal services and organisations so we can facilitate some level of support.” 

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