Crucial frontline medical staff are being denied quarantine exemptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one saying he is trapped in hotel quarantine.
Crucial frontline medical staff are being denied quarantine exemptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one saying he is trapped in hotel quarantine.

Frontline medical staff ‘not worthy’ of quarantine exemption

Queensland specialist doctors are tearing their hair out as they get the runaround over accessing special exemption border passes so they can carry on their work in northern NSW.

And one of them, a Gold Coast man tasked with carrying out crucial maintenance on lung function machines during COVID-19, is locked in quarantine, despite having an essential services pass and a reference from a Queensland Health specialist.

Award-winning biomedical engineer Joe Welch has been trapped at Novotel Brisbane Airport after police rejected his documents at the border on Thursday.

Mr Welch had been returning from Tasmania where he and a colleague had carried out crucial maintenance at Hobart Hospital.

The pair were due to fly to COVID-ravaged Sydney next week to continue their work, but fear they will not be allowed to leave.

"(Police) stopped us and wouldn't allow us to continue further because they didn't believe we required an exemption," Mr Welch told The Courier-Mail.

"They said no, we just don't think you do."

Mr Welch contacted the COVID-19 hotline following his ordeal and claims he was told he should be allowed to enter Queensland without quarantining.

He also says he received a reference letter from a lung function director at the Prince Charles Hospital, which was also rejected by police.

Mr Welch's Yatala-based company Nova Biomedical was honoured with a Gold Coast Business Award for its pioneering software in 2017.

Joe Welch is a biomedical technician and engineer who has been locked in quarantine since yesterday.
Joe Welch is a biomedical technician and engineer who has been locked in quarantine since yesterday.

He has been working on lung functions machines for 14 years.

He and his family have been on the frontline in hospitals since the COVID-19 outbreak, he said.

"I'm scared for our health system if Queensland Police are locking up essential services," Mr Welch said.

"They're actually risking lives by not knowing the legislation they're enforcing."

The closure of the Queensland border has left the provision of specialist medical care for hundreds of thousands of people, living between the extended Queensland "bubble" border and Yamba, problematic.

One doctor told The Courier-Mail that he applied for an exemption pass from Queensland Health as soon as the border closed. More than two weeks later he had not received a pass and instead received an email saying his application dates had expired.

"I still am none the wiser as to whether I can be exempt from quarantine on return to Queensland from providing medical services to patients on the mid north coast," he said.

The email stated: "We sincerely apologise for our delay in contacting you, unfortunately we are experiencing a very high volume of enquiries in relation to the Public Health Directions. It is noted that the dates for which you were seeking the exemption have now passed."

Specialists have had to cancel clinics and appointments as they wait for necessary paperwork to avoid quarantine.

Queensland Police Service and Queensland Health have been contacted for comment.

Originally published as Frontline medical staff 'not worthy' of quarantine exemptions


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