Corona bush solutions: Health workers from interstate


Sir – Decisive and urgent action is needed to prevent COVID-19 spreading to remote Australian communities, the council of the Central Australia Academic Health Science Network [CA AHSN] decided yesterday.
A major priority in our endeavours is working with Aboriginal communities and support to the primary health services in the bush and our regional centres.
Things that might work in the big cities simply won’t work out bush, so we need to focus on local solutions.
We believe it is critical that rapid and extensive testing be rolled out as soon as possible, so that such work is timely and localised. As a first step this should be located in Alice Springs, rapidly followed by other regional centres.
Of paramount concern is that our health services—already severely under resourced—not be further burdened.
Just as happened in the recent bush fire crises, we would see it as essential that Commonwealth-funded remote area health medical workers being brought in to help.
Both Aboriginal community-controlled and government primary health services face enormous day-to-day challenges—and we strongly support them as the real heroes of health care in remote Australia, from Aboriginal health practitioners, to nurses to allied health workers to doctors, to all staff doing such vital work. 
Meanwhile, our research activities will limit fieldwork, and researchers recently overseas will not be allowed to travel remotely. This follows the initiatives already of some of our partner organisations.
CA AHSN will continue to be informed by messaging from the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT [AMSANT] and the Department of Health. AMSANT has already been supplying advice to member services, with a focus on updating vaccinations and a focus on day-to-day preventive measure such as hand washing.
In any case, we will also seek to follow the recommendations of local Aboriginal community organisations in our work.
A major priority, from the Commonwealth and NT governments should be a major effort in proving accurate and concise information to Aboriginal people — with a strong emphasis given to delivering such information in First Nations languages.


  1. The biggest challenge will be the flow of remote community residents into and out of jail.
    The jail will be COVID-19 central.
    It was built to avoid social isolation (and the risk of suicide).
    Prisoners are held in blocks not individual cells.
    Medium security blocks each hold up to 120 prisoners in a large room.
    There is no space in the overcrowded jail to isolate more than a few infected prisoners.
    Guards will also be infected.
    A 90% prisoner and guard infection rate should be anticipated.
    There will be so few healthy guards that they will not be able to enforce hand washing etc.
    With the constant flow of prisoners in and out of the jail COVID-19 will be quickly transferred from the prison to remote communities.
    This is inevitable because it is illegal to withhold release an infected prisoner on the expiry of his or her sentence.
    The rapid spread of the disease in a population with many underlying health issues is certain to lead to a high Aboriginal death rate.
    The high rate of Aboriginal imprisonment will soon have a knock on effect.

  2. Of course it’s time to ban mass gatherings.
    Over time, in Australia, the virus is projected to get worse and will hurt more of the elderly and the immunocompromised.
    Controlling the outbreak sooner will help hospitals from getting overloaded with cases.
    If we learned anything from Italy and other countries, it’s time to take action which includes stopping social gathering and using social distancing as a tool to protect yourself and others.
    Testing should also be brought in soon, to calculate how many cases (if any) we possibly do have right now. We must be smart if we want to tackle this properly.

  3. The risk is that Alice Springs will have a sharp spike in cases that will overwhelm the hospital.
    I would put this at about 80 likely, some say inevitable. 50 or more severe cases for ICU in a few days is quite possible.
    Will remote cases be flow into town to be treated in our overwhelmed hospital where they could infect others?
    Or will they be essentially be left to die in bush clinics that will not have the intensive care facilities?
    Pre existing illnesses and age be factors in granting bail in non violent cases to keep prison numbers down.
    Early release of selected prisoners with pre existing illnesses.
    Prison guards to wear protective equipment.
    Screening of prisoners and quick isolation at a facility yet to be identified.
    All school excursions to be cancelled, no students to leave their campus, especially those from remote communities.
    Screening of new arrivals to Yirara College.
    Possible temporary closure of Yirara.

  4. …. and close down the Bush Bus service immediately. For their own protection and the protection of Alice Springs residents the bush must be isolated as far as possible.

  5. If the Army can be deployed for the Intervention in Aboriginal communities in 2007 in a knee jerk reaction by the Commonwealth government to some perceived nonsense at the time when there was no such deadly threat as there is now with the Coronavirus Pandemic, then the Army should be placed on standby to once again deploy to bush communities or some place central that can also manage movement of people, a job for police if need requires.
    The Army has doctors and medical staff and well equipped field hospitals they can whack up anytime, anywhere where people can move about outside within a controlled perimeter as most would not like being cooped up inside a hospital.
    That should greatly help to relieve pressure on overloaded hospitals and medical staff in town centres and maybe help minimise or desirably, prevent spread of the virus if treated on site.
    This is what Chief Minister Gunner should be discussing with the Morrison government if he has not already.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here