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Thursday , 18 August 2022

A doctor’s plea in the fight against COVID-19 in Melbourne

Filipino-Australian frontline doctor shares why Stage 4 restrictions are necessary in Melbourne, and the challenges non-compliance brings in the fight against COVID-19.

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By Dr Michelle Natividad Bautista, MBBS, Honours, FANZCA

Victoria is in a state of disaster and now in stage 4 lockdown. We need stage 4 lockdown to aim for elimination, otherwise we would be living through this limbo for many months. As part of the medical team, I’d like to think that we are a strong and we have the right skills and training to handle this crisis, especially as cases are now presenting with more frequency.

It is heartbreaking that people are dying without someone close to them holding their hands. Funerals and goodbyes are extremely limited which is devastating for the affected families. The government has tried very hard to avoid stage 4 as it’s a huge burden, but there are no other options. 

Dr. Natividad with a COVID patient requiring hospital treatment in a Melbourne hospital

Stage 4 restrictions will leave thousands of Victorians with significant financial, mental, emotional and social hardships, on top of dealing with health issues. There will be many people who will be unemployed or underemployed, businesses forever closed. A lot of people who live alone will be even more isolated. The toll from mental health and domestic abuse will be enormous. 

I agree that the government could have done better, but what the government mandates can only be a good as the people following them. And sadly, we’re far off the mark. 

Victoria started off with easing the restrictions in late May/early June because we had such low numbers (less than 20) that easing of restrictions was not unreasonable, but strict numbers/rules/guidelines still existed. 

By no means did it mean everything was back to normal. It’s people’s selfishness and irresponsibility and maybe lack of knowledge that led to this, especially the disastrous bungled quarantine and large family gatherings. 

But now that we know better, we must do better. I was alarmed to find out that up until this latest Stage 4, COVID positive individuals were allowed to go outside for exercise! This was the DHHS guidelines, because Victoria signed a Human Rights Charter a few years ago which indicated that outdoors exercise was a basic human rights! A COVID positive individual exercising outside, with others? This defies common sense! A “quick exercise”, can very easily escalate to a quick trip to the supermarket, or quick stop by a coffee shop, thus multiplying the spread of the virus. It’s ridiculous!

Thankfully, this loophole is now closed. New rules as of 4 August, states that up to $5,000 fine is applicable if a COVID positive person doesn’t adhere to quarantine rules and are not home during random checks by the Australian defence force.

It is about time. No more exercise outside the home if you are COVID positive from now on. 

As a doctor, I have numerous friends forced into quarantine due to close contact with COVID positive patients, whilst they, my fellow healthcare workers had inadequate PPE. (PPE for healthcare workers is another essential issue, but that’s another topic). To protect their families, some have elected to stay in government funded hotels and they cannot leave their tiny rooms, not for food, not for exercise.

So for those COVID positive people out there, please stay home!

Open your door, go to your backyard or your balcony or even just open your window for fresh air, but please stay home. Of course, getting medical help, dangerous domestic situations and emergencies are exemptions. 

Financial assistance is readily available for those in need. 

For now, we must identify as many COVID positive cases as possible. Every Victorian, even those with the mildest symptoms should get tested and if positive, they should isolate and quarantine themselves inside their homes. Only then we can eliminate COVID-19. 

Unfortunately, there’s a portion of people who will always break the law regardless of the penalty. There is always a small subsection of sociopaths whose psychology are difficult to change. For them, if a fine is not acting as a deterrent, then I think they should be held criminally accountable and if required, jail!

Dr. Natividad with two nurses at a prominent hospital in Melbourne

They are engaging in conduct endangering human life, not to mention breaching Chief Health Officer’s directives during a state of disaster. They are the self-entitled, selfish, arrogant and ignorant people of our state. Endangering our lives (and that of our families) and putting us in this economic meltdown. 

The majority of Victorians are doing the right thing and I commend you, I thank you, and I’m grateful for all your sacrifices.

Let’s all do better. Let’s all stay home, be patient, be tolerant and let’s win this battle.

Together, let’s annihilate this damn virus. And hopefully, one day soon, we can get our lives back.

Dr. Natividad with a team of nurses working together to keep their spirits up before performing emergency surgery in a COVID suspect patient. Three nurses in this team are Filipino.

Read Dr. Natividad’s previous article: Filipino Australian doctor treating COVID patients urges public to ‘stay home’

Dr. Natividad works at multiple hospitals both in public and private in Melbourne. She is an anaesthetist called to help and manage deteriorating COVID-19 patients, or those with cardio-respiratory arrests requiring resuscitation, intubations and ventilations in the wards, emergency departments, on top of anaesthetising patients undergoing emergency surgery. 

Dr. Natividad completed a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of surgery 1999, with Honours at Monash University. She finished her anaesthesia training 2007, completing her examinations with merit.

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