Adam Marshall condemns Hunter New England Local Health Service for keeping people in the dark about COVID-19

UNIMPRESSED: Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall was unhappy with Hunter New England Local Health Servic
UNIMPRESSED: Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall was unhappy with Hunter New England Local Health Servic

An angry Adam Marshall spoke out on Wednesday, after Hunter New England Health stopped providing him with updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

A fiery Mr Marshall said he was disappointed, quite angry and disturbed to learn that Hunter New England Local Health District was also withholding information from the NSW Police, who investigate the cases.

"Hunter New England Local Health is keeping our communities in the dark and that's not good enough," he said

"We're dealing with a worldwide pandemic - there's nothing more serious than this. It's "Crisis Management 101", you need a reliable, trusted source of information with localised data to release every single day.

RELATED READING:

"The community needs to have the confidence that the authorities have this thing, as much as possible, under control. Yet these people think it's fine not to reveal information, which is critical to families, individuals and councils making decisions about how they will react in their pandemic plans."

Mr Marshall said by reporting 70 cases across a health district covering an area from Mungindi, on the Queensland border, down to Newcastle was absolutely no help to anyone.

"It actually feeds into creating more panic, hysteria and alarm into the community at a time when we need to turn down the dial," he said.

"How can the community trust the authorities when they won't trust us with the truth. They don't even trust us enough to tell us what's really going on.

"I think it's absolutely reprehensible, disgusting and it makes me angry, but also it's counterproductive. We need data to be released every single day on a local government area basis. Treat us with some respect and dignity, and trust us."

Mr Marshall said an information vacuum was being filled on social media by rumour, innuendo and speculation based on town gossip or something they've heard in the street.

"It's clearly not a state-wide policy. I know for a fact that there are other health districts that are providing this information on a local government area basis every day," he said.

"I also know that health districts are in contact with their local MP's, giving them localised information, which they can then release to their communities.

"I know this because I talk to people all around the state and I talk to my colleagues on a regular basis."

Mr Marshall said his daily updates about COVID-19 and this electorate ceased last Tuesday - on the day very day Northern Tablelands registered its first positive test.

"It's not good enough to find this stuff out from social media, or from the Police, or from politicians. This stuff should be coming from the health authorities," he said.

Hunter New England Health Public Health controller Dr David Durrheim, has said Hunter New England Health follows the guidelines of the National Department of Health, in addition to NSW Health.

"Our District is, and will, keep the public updated by releasing all appropriate information as guided by the NSW Ministry of Health and chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant," he said.

"I understand there are concerns in the community about the location of people with COVID19, as people are obviously keen to protect themselves against the virus.

"Please be assured anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, and their close contacts, are either being treated in hospital or are in self-isolation, to ensure there is no ongoing risk of infection to others in the community.

"Locations of where these people live, work, or have visited, do not pose any ongoing risk to the public. And it's important that just as we would want our health privacy protected, we afford others that same courtesy."

Dr Durrheim said people who were self-isolating were doing a great service for our community. They needed to feel confident about their privacy when coming forward to report if they are unwell, otherwise they may not seek help for fear of being victimised, and we risked the virus spreading further.

"I want to assure the community that as we have done over the past weeks, and in line with required national protocols, we will let the community know of any public locations where there has been a known risk of infection. This is so you can monitor symptoms and seek medical assistance if you become unwell.

"As the number of cases in our district continues to rise, I want to stress how important it is for everyone to do their bit. Wash your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, maintain social distancing and stay home if you're unwell. And please, get your flu jab."