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Australia Review of blood testing in hotel quarantine launched after contamination risk identified

11:20  19 october  2020
11:20  19 october  2020 Source:   theage.com.au

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Safer Care Victoria has launched an investigation into the blood glucose testing of people held in quarantine hotels between March 29 and August 20, but says the risk of transmission is low. It is the latest in a string of failures identified in the state's bungled hotel quarantine system, which has

Melbourne's quarantine hotels were previously identified as a hotbed for coronavirus infections, with the state of Victoria launching a judicial inquiry into the programme after alleged breaches emerged. These include accusations against hotel guards for having sex with guests during quarantine

Safer Care Victoria has launched an investigation into the use of blood glucose-testing kits in Melbourne's quarantine hotels after it was revealed single-use kits were used on multiple people and could have exposed them to hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

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More than 200 people who were in Victoria's hotel quarantine program are being urged to get Health Minister Martin Foley today reiterated there was a very low risk for cross- contamination , but Safer Care Victoria has launched a review into the use of the blood glucose testing devices.

Two returned travellers from the United States test positive for coronavirus in hotel quarantine on Dr Young said positive results from sewage testing around the state showed how important it was for Health officials said the variant was identified in Bavarian hospital patients, but it isn't yet known

a group of people walking down the street: hotel inquiry generic homepage image © Jamie Brown hotel inquiry generic homepage image

It is the latest in a string of failures identified in the state's bungled hotel quarantine system, which has been linked to more than 99 per cent of Victoria's second wave of COVID-19 cases.

The hotel quarantine inquiry was established after complaints within the sector were leaked to the media, including of poor use of personal protective equipment and poor hygiene standards.

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Swiss authorities say they have placed two hotels under quarantine and ordered all guests and employees to be tested after a new variant of coronavirus was detected among them in the upmarket skiing resort of St Moritz.

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The inquiry has so far claimed two political scalps - Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles, and former health minister Jenny Mikakos.

Finger-prick tests routinely used by people living with diabetes, including pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes, were used in the hotel quarantine system. Safer Care Victoria said it did not believe needles were used multiple times, but the body of the devices were touched by more than one person.

"Blood glucose level testing devices intended for use by one person were used across multiple residents," the agency said in a statement.

Safer Care Victoria, created as part of government reforms to improve quality and safety in the public health system, said there was a low clinical risk of cross-contamination and exposure to blood-borne viruses including hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

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Safer Care Victoria is in the process of contacting 243 people who had a blood glucose level test between March 29 and August 20, based on information in their health records.

Acting chief executive Associate Professor Ann Maree Keenan said the clinical risk was low.

"The health of past quarantine residents is our immediate concern, so arranging screening for them is our absolute priority," she said.

"The clinical risk is low. But if you are at all worried you had this test - and we have not contacted you yet - please call us.


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"Right now, we won't be able to answer the many questions people will have about how this happened. Be assured that Safer Care Victoria is conducting a full review into how and why this device came to be in use."

"I hope that we will be able to bring peace of mind through getting people in for testing, and through the findings of our review."

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University of Queensland infectious diseases physician associate professor Paul Griffin said it was not ideal to use devices that were meant to be single-use more than once.

But he believes even if a cartridge wasn't cleaned between patients it would have posed a "very minimal" risk of spreading coronavirus.

Dr Griffin said while coronavirus could be spread via contact, the more likely method of transmission was through droplets containing the virus.

"The worst-case scenario would be if someone had just coughed into their hand and the device contacted that specific area and then it contacted the next person and they happen to rub their eyes straight away," he said.

"I think just given the small size of the device and the really brief contact, it's not a realistic possibility of transmission, but again we need to make sure we are not complacent with these things."

The new information from Safer Care Victoria is likely to mean the hotel quarantine inquiry will have to seek another statement from the agency, given the issues were not raised when chief executive Euan Wallace, who has been seconded to the Health Department, gave evidence last month.

Victoria hotel quarantine guests may have been infected with HIV

  Victoria hotel quarantine guests may have been infected with HIV Safer Care Victoria said testing devices intended for one person had been used across multiple guests - potentially placing them at risk of contracting viruses including hepatitis B and C, and HIV.Safer Care Victoria is contacting 243 guests who went through the state's hotel quarantine system and took a blood glucose level test between March 29 and August 20.

The inquiry is holding an extraordinary hearing on Tuesday after The Age obtained emails that contradicted Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton's testimony about his knowledge of private security in the quarantine program.

There will be no witnesses appearing. Instead, the head of the inquiry, Jennifer Coate, will address the new evidence that has emerged.

Justice Coate may decide to recall witnesses to give evidence and if that occurs, government officials are likely to be the focus as the Health Department didn't disclose the emails involving Professor Sutton.

It is likely Justice Coate will ask for more time to complete the final report, due to be handed down on November 6.

Safer Care Victoria says there is no risk to people who did not have a blood glucose level test, to those who used their own personal device to test their blood glucose level, or to people currently in hotel quarantine. The devices were removed in August.

It says there is "no risk" the shared equipment could have spread coronavirus (COVID-19), as it is not transmitted by blood.

Anyone who underwent blood glucose testing in hotel quarantine can call the dedicatedpatient line on 1800 356 061 (8am to 8pm, seven days a week). Interpreters are available on request.

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