An influx of COVID-19 patients from Papua New Guinea has contributed to Cairns Hospital declaring its first Code Yellow in more than 18 months.
More than 260 people presented at the emergency department on Tuesday, with road crash victims adding to increased pressure on services.
“A sustained high number of presentations to the ED, alongside a spike in trauma admissions and several patients needing isolation for COVID-19 had led to the hospital declaring a Code Yellow,” the hospital said in a statement on Wednesday.
The hospital has six patients with COVID-19 in isolation, all of whom travelled from PNG.
“All patients were detected with the virus in hotel quarantine, and transferred to the hospital as per usual processes, to prevent any risk of community infection,” executive director of medical services Don Mackie said.
He is confident the hospital will be able to cope with the increased demand in the short term, but said some elective surgery has been postponed.
“We are balancing our COVID-19 pandemic response with the continued delivery of essential health services, but we are asking Far North Queenslanders to please keep our EDs for emergencies only,” he said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said vaccination hubs on Thursday and Saibai islands were a priority given the outbreak in PNG.
“It means greater protection for our communities, especially in the Torres Strait,” she said in parliament on Wednesday.
The government first flagged plans for a sped up vaccination roll out for the islands neighbouring PNG last week.
“It’s only a matter of kilometres, and there’s a lot of trade and commerce that usually happens, and we are seeing more and more cases, unfortunately, in Papua New Guinea,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Friday.
Queensland had vaccinated almost 12,000 health and hotel quarantine workers as of Wednesday morning.
The state recorded five new cases in hotel quarantine overnight, bringing the total number of active cases to 37.