Healthcare workers treating COVID cases in the Torres Strait will be given extra protection against the virus as the outbreak in neighbouring Papua New Guinea grows.
The first of three ventilation hoods is being transported to the hospital on Thursday Island off the tip of Cape York in Queensland's far north.
It is the referral hospital for seventeen Primary Health Care Centres in the Torres Strait Islands.
"Particularly in light of the recent clusters in Queensland being traced back to health staff, providing additional layers of protection equipment is essential to protect not just the health professionals treating COVID patients, but also the broader community," Rural Doctors Association of Australia President John Hall said.
Vaccinations in the region have been a priority given the number of vulnerable communities and proximity to PNG, but the rollout was paused last week in response to changing advice for the AstraZeneca jab.
"The recommendation that Pfizer vaccine be administered to under 50s in preference to AstraZeneca for people who have not yet had their first dose has implications for regions such as ours where the majority of our population base is aged under 50," Torres and Cape Executive Director of Medical Services Tony Brown said on Friday.
"We will keep our communities informed as we firm up plans for the continuing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program across our region and the delivery of second doses to communities such as Saibai, Boigu and Dauan, which have already had their first doses."
The transparent plastic cover of the Medihoods fit above the head and torso of suspected COVID patients, acting as a physical barrier between them and health workers, and a pump sucks air from within the hood to a hospital-grade air filter.
"Given the potential for coronavirus to spread to Thursday Island from PNG, the McMonty Medihoods will be a critical tool in helping protect health professionals and other patients at Thursday Island Hospital," Royal Doctors Association Queensland Foundation Chairperson, Dr Dan Halliday, said.
The Australian-made medihoods were funded by the RDAQ Foundation and Rural Doctors Association of Australia.
Australian Associated Press