- System Alert and Response level for WA hospital COVID measures moves to Blue on 15 August 2022
- Changes allow frontline health staff to work in areas most needed
- Move comes as COVID-19 cases continue to fall in Western Australia
Following the continued decline of Western Australian COVID-19 cases, the WA health system will transition all public hospitals to a new phase of pandemic response.
The move will free up frontline staff to return to clinical duties, and provide greater access for community members to see loved ones in hospital.
Under the System Alert and Response (SAR) framework, a new Blue alert level will begin on 15 August 2022, scaling down from the current Red level.
Key changes include some reduced screening requirements, targeted testing, and changes to mask rules for staff. Visitors to hospitals will still need proof of COVID-19 vaccination - or a valid proof of exemption - with staff conducting spot checks, rather than mass on-entry inspections.
Voluntary testing of healthcare workers will continue under the Blue alert level.
All changes to the SAR were developed in collaboration with hospital and health system leaders, and approved by the Chief Health Officer. The measures have been designed to strike the balance between protecting healthcare workers and people at greatest risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19, while ensuring effective patient flow through hospitals.
Amendments to the Proof of Vaccination Directions, Visitors to Hospitals and Disability Support Accommodation Facilities Directions, and the COVID-19 Visitor Guideline for WA Public Hospital and Health services will support the changes to the SAR.
The measures, at each hospital, include:
- Visiting hours will be extended at each hospital. Essential visitors may visit outside standard hours;
- Two visitors per patient at any one time, but this may be extended in certain circumstances, as determined by authorised hospital staff;
- Visitors or carers aged 12 years or older must wear a surgical mask in all areas of the hospital or health service;
- Asymptomatic visitors will no longer have to produce a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) result, unless visiting a high-risk area, or vulnerable patients;
- To ensure patient safety, symptomatic visitors are not permitted. Exceptions may be made on compassionate grounds;
- RATs will still be required for all symptomatic emergency department patients;
- A prior RAT result is required for symptomatic patients being admitted for elective surgery or procedures;
- Staff working in high-risk hospital areas or caring for vulnerable patients must wear Particulate filter respirator (PFR) masks, while all other staff must wear a surgical mask. Further information for staff will be provided by local Health Service Providers; and
- Staff may choose to wear PFR masks in any area of the hospital.
Comments attributed to Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson:
"This is a measured approach to scaling back the COVID response in hospitals, which has been endorsed by the Chief Health Officer, and expert infection control teams from the WA health system.
"In a time when WA has passed its most recent peak of COVID-19, it makes sense to take practical, reasonable measures to free up some burdens, and support healthcare workers and families supporting their loved ones in hospital.
"This is, of course, balanced appropriately with the need to protect our staff, and our most vulnerable patients from serious illness.
"I would once again extend my thanks to all staff, patients and visitors for their ongoing support of WA's hospital system, and to manage our COVID-19 response - in what continues to be a very challenging time."
Minister's office - 6552 5900