Clayton Barr MP, State Member for the Electorate of Cessnock is calling for a testing facility to be located in the Cessnock Local Government Area (LGA) to help bring Cessnock testing rates to the same level as other local government areas in the Hunter region.
“Having access to COVID-19 testing is going to be key to us avoiding a disastrous second wave and it is absolutely crucial that testing sites are local and easy to get to. That is why I have been making representations for several weeks now to Hunter New England Health and to the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to provide at least one COVID-19 testing site inside of the Cessnock LGA” said Mr Barr.
Currently for residents in the Cessnock LGA to access COVID-19 tests they need to either go to a handful of local doctors or to travel to Maitland Hospital or Singleton Hospital. Access to public transport is an issue especially as the Cessnock LGA covers such a wide and vast area encompassing 1,966 km2.
Mr Barr said “When it comes to accessing COVID-19 testing, it is simply not good enough to expect residents to travel. Making access to COVID-19 testing difficult only makes failure more likely than success. A designated COVID-19 test site will also take pressure off of our hard working local doctors’ surgeries and their staff and frees them up to get on with their general treatment of their patients’ aches, pains and illnesses, all of which have not taken a break since COVID-19 arrived on the scene.”
Figures available from NSW Data show 2.8% of residents in the Cessnock LGA have been tested for COVID-19. In comparison the Maitland LGA which has multiple testing facilities including Maitland Hospital and Douglas Hanly Moir Pathology at Rutherford, 4.89% of residents have been tested.
Only 1,611 tests have been performed on residents from the Cessnock LGA with a population of 57,521 people. There is a clear gap with the number of tests performed and number of residents.
“This gap in the number of tests provides an opportunity for the NSW Government to increase testing in the Cessnock LGA, widening the response to COVID-19 and highlights the need to bring all communities across the Hunter up to the same level of testing” said Mr Barr.
Premier Berejiklian has been repeatedly urging residents in NSW to be tested as the more cases that are identified the better we can stop the spread of the virus.
“As we lift restrictions during the month of May, as there is more activity whether it’s dropping children off, whether it’s retail, whether it’s people visiting each other in their homes, we know that the level of activity means, there is likely to be more cases, that’s why we need everybody who has even the mildest of symptoms to come forward” said Ms Berejiklian.
NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant has also reiterated the pleas for people to come forward “We are urging everyone in the community to come forward for a test should they develop symptoms.”
In an area which has previously been identified by the Primary Health Network (PHN) Hunter New England and Central Coast as significantly having experienced difficultly accessing health services due to transport and/or cost, the Cessnock LGA is already facing challenges without the added stress of having to travel to access COVID-19 testing in other locations.
“At the start of this COVID-19 pandemic it was right for each of us to support all steps being taken, every effort being made and the incredible speed at which the Government and NSW Health were required to respond. But now it is time to take stock and prepare for a long, ongoing existence in a COVID-19 world.”
“That starts with a COVID-19 clinic located at either one or both of the hospitals (Kurri Kurri Hospital or Cessnock Hospital) located in the Cessnock LGA” said Mr Barr.
Mr Barr said “Indications as recently as today are encouraging that a COVID-19 testing facility could be located in the Cessnock LGA in the future.”