The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) have concluded their support at Burnie’s North West Regional Hospital (NWRH) following an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff.

 Fifty members of the ADF and seven AUSMAT health professionals ensured the emergency department remained open and provided essential health services to residents of north-west Tasmania while hospital staff undertook 14 days of quarantine.

 The team included ADF medical doctors, emergency nurses, a pharmacist, a radiographer, an environmental health officer and a small group of general support personnel.

 Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, said the ADF had shown its ability once again to coordinate and support state and territory governments when called upon.

 “This was the first time the ADF had been called on to help operate a domestic hospital. Within just a matter of hours of being tasked, the team was heading to Tasmania to assist,” Senator Reynolds said. 

 “For more than two weeks, they provided support to the people of north-west Tasmania including enhanced infection control, primary care, acute resuscitation, minor procedures and consulting care.”

Commander of Joint Task Group 629.5, Colonel David Hughes, said the ADF medical team supported AUSMAT to reopen and operate the emergency department at the NWRH.

"The team has worked tirelessly with AUSMAT in the emergency department and over the last 14 days has seen over 400 patients,” Colonel Hughes said.

 
The team has worked tirelessly with AUSMAT in the emergency department.

AUSMAT Mission Lead, Bronte Martin, said the joint AUSMAT-ADF team was grateful for the generous support and warm welcome shown by the north-west community.
 
"We would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank the staff of the NWRH Emergency Department for their ongoing support, and that of Tasmanian health colleagues across the region for their commitment to the health and safety of the community throughout this time," Ms Martin said.
 
"On behalf of the nurses, doctors, medics, allied health and support team members, it has been our collective privilege to serve the north-west Tasmanian community and step in to restore and provide essential emergency care services while the healthcare system recovered.”

Colonel Hughes said the deployment was an excellent example of the ADF supporting the national interest.

“It has been a great privilege to be involved with this mission that has provided a degree of normalcy and confidence to the community of the north-west in this difficult time,” Colonel Hughes said.

 “I am extremely proud of the efforts of AUSMAT and the ADF medical team.”

With hospital staff having completed their quarantine period, a final handover took place on April 29 and ADF and AUSMAT personnel flew out of Tasmania on two RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft on April 30.

Before they departed, Colonel Hughes presented the team with a small gift each from the Governor of Tasmania, Kate Warner, as an expression of gratitude on behalf of the Tasmanian people.