Today’s question comes from someone who conducts

… patient transport services within Australia, particularly NSW, however, hospitals often require interstate transfers of patients.

Unfortunately, since the current coronavirus crisis is quite fluid, hospitals we deal with, are continuing most operations as normal, and require patients to be transferred to other health care facilities.

My question/s are;

As the public information given thus far indicate restricting movements to essential travel and Essential Services (including Medical), how does this affect –

    1. patient transport services including moving patients for medical procedures? We currently believe this will be covered as Essential Medical travel
    2. movement of patients between Aged Care Facilities in both cases the movement would have been cleared between facilities.
    3. Interstate movement of patients, by road (ambulance) or air (Air Charter medical aircraft), particularly where a State or Territory may have closed its borders to the general public for travel, but allow Essential Travel (including Essential Services- Medical)?

In this case, I believe current arrangements will allow for patient transport movements, however, do we require a specific document from the dispatching facility, that may be presented (if requested) by authorities at the land border/airport?

I have sent these questions through to federal health since the authorities in NSW don’t really have an answer.

Just wondering on your opinion around such matters.

My opinion is twofold. First, this blog cannot give specific advice and second, I cannot comment on the details of the public health response (see No running commentary on COVID-19 (March 23, 2020)).

With respect to that first limitation – general and not specific advice –  I can say that my first general observation is that the federal government is not the appropriate place to send these questions.  It is not the Federal government that is imposing quarantine restrictions on the state borders, that is a matter for state governments, so the questions need to be send to the various state health departments.

The South Australian Health Department says

The State Government has taken unprecedented action in response to the coronavirus pandemic requiring all people entering South Australia to isolate for 14-days from their arrival.

This will apply immediately to South Australians, other Australians and other travellers, and will be supported by border control from Tuesday 24 March at 4pm.

This is an enforceable obligation applicable from 4pm on Tuesday 24 March 2020.

Exemptions will apply for essential transport including health and medical supplies, and health personnel and patients, food and commercial supply chains (i.e. the carrying of goods), health workers, near border interactions, travel of a relative/carer of a dependant individual, and for emergency services.

Given this blog attempts to speak to general principles I can say that these orders can be made South Australian Public Health Act 2011 (SA)  Part II.  It would be specific advice, based on incomplete information and unhelpful for me to say whether the service provided by my correspondent falls within the exemption described on the web page.  As I said in my earlier post there needs to be one source of truth – so ask SA (or WA, or NT, or Tasmania or Queensland) Health.  Even if I did attempt to answer the question there is no value in turning up at the border and saying ‘but Eburn said we’re ok…’ if the SA Police direct you into quarantine.