Families may be banned from hospital visits


FAMILY should be banned from visiting sick loved ones in hospital to protect patients from contracting the deadly coronavirus, one of Australia's leading intensive care specialists has said.

Professor John Fraser, the director of ICU at St Andrews Hospital in Spring Hill, Brisbane, who is leading a global study into the disease, told The Courier-Mail all hospitals should look strongly at closing visitor hours.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced a raft of measures to help protect aged care residents, including banning anyone under 16 and retrictions of two visitors per resident at any time.



Dr Fraser said he closed intensive care from visitors at St Andrews Hospital yesterday morning and said it would remain that way until it was safe.

While Queensland Health has not banned visitors from hospitals, a spokeswoman said following the PM's announcement to practice social distancing, it was asking the public to limit visiting and to consider other ways of keeping in touch.

"Based on the ongoing novel coronavirus situation, Queensland Health is urging those visiting friends, family and loved ones in hospital to continue to use common sense," she said.

"We know hospital visiting plays an important part for a patient's recovery. However, many in hospital are already more vulnerable to diseases and complications.

"Hospitals and facilities will continue to review these guidelines and decisions as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 situation across the state."

Dr Fraser, who has previously labelled COVID-19 a "viral tornado" while warning the disease could have unparalleled impacts on Queensland and Australia, said there was no backlash after banning visitors from St Andrew's ICU.

"We've phoned the relatives and we've apologised," he said.
"Everyone wants the best by their loved ones. It's about getting ahead of the curve. I would suggest that all hospitals look strongly, closely at the risk of allowing visitors."

Yesterday, medical leaders from around the world united to urge the Federal Government to fund a global study Dr Fraser is leading to collate data on how intensive care units can prepare for COVID-19.

In an extraordinary letter, the leaders warned an "overwhelming burden" will be placed on hospitals but specifically on intensive care resources in the face of up to 80 per cent of the population potentially contracting the virus.

"Never before have we seen this disease, nor its magnitude," the letter reads.

"We have no data on how best to care for our patients - specifically your parents.

"Without data, we are driving blindfold at 100kmh - with your relatives in the vehicle."

The study is currently collating data on ICU management of the sickest and most vulnerable patients from around the world.

The leaders consider it to be the equivalent of an "early warning system" that would help ICUs plan for the worst. The letter, which is signed by almost 30 leaders, urges the Government to "align themselves with their medical leaders and take the leap".

"Australian political leaders should stand shoulder to shoulder with their medical leaders - for the sake of us all," it reads.

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