‘Irrational’: Sceptical doctor slams virus plan
A GP treating elderly residents in a Melbourne nursing home is voicing concerns that positive COVID-19 patients are not being retested to check they no longer have the virus.
Dr Mark Hobart says positive symptoms can persist anywhere from 14 days to two months, and instead of being retested, his patients at an aged care facility in the city's western suburbs were instead "stuck in solitary confinement".
"I have been looking after a nursing home for the last three-and-a-half weeks as the sole GP physically attending which has over 40 coronavirus positive residents in it. I can truthfully say that I have not seen any patients so far in my time there, and I am attending almost every day, with symptoms of coronavirus," he said.
"These patients are asymptomatic. These patients are no longer reswabbed because the results often remain positive, and according to the DHHS this may be positive for weeks to months.
"If we are not retesting patients then what criteria is being used to release patients from isolation."
When asked about the issue, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed patients could remain positive "for several weeks to months" but said "this has not been shown to be a predictor of infectivity".
"It's generally not necessary to retest a positive case - retesting is undertaken when prolonged acute symptoms persist," a DHHS spokesperson said.
Dr Hobart said he had only signed off on one death in the past four weeks at the nursing home, a resident he did not wish to name publicly.
The Sunshine North GP said the patient had died from a blood clot in their leg and not from coronavirus despite being COVID positive at the time of death.
"The Victoria Government is basing its coronavirus strategy on deaths and cases numbers. The death numbers have been stated to be not only death from coronavirus but death from or with coronavirus," he said.
"From my experience in the nursing home, the numbers dying withcoronavirus would greatly exceed those dying from coronavirus.
"Similarly, having a positive PCR test does not mean you are a case of coronavirus. You could have been positive for the last two months or more and not known about it.
"It has been suggested that the lockdown will end when there are no cases for 28 days. All it would take would be one positive test on day 28 on a person who could have been positive for the last two months to put us into lockdown again.
"It is irrational to base the lockdown and other onerous measures, which create great harm and morbidity in themselves, on the basis of numbers of deaths which are grossly inflated and not the actual number of deaths due to coronavirus, or base these measures on case numbers which are not really cases at all but people who are positive for a screening test only and not sick or contagious."
The next step of reopening won't go ahead in metropolitan Melbourne until the city reaches a 14-day daily case rate of between 30 and 50.
Regional Victoria has achieved its goal of a 14-day average of less than five and no mystery cases, with the State Government announcing it could open up on Thursday.
But health authorities maintain the 14-day average must be zero in order for the whole state of Victoria to move to the last step on the Government's COVID recovery road map.
Victoria chief health officer professor Brett Sutton has defended the modelling used to map Victoria's path out of lockdown.
"There have been lots of other inputs and, of course, it has been the experience of watching the numbers, both here and in other jurisdictions, to see the kind of levels you need to get to sustain those very low levels of transmission or get to know transmission if you can," he said.
Premier Daniel Andrews has said government decisions were always driven by data.
"We have at no point said, 'This is set in stone tablets and can never be changed'. In fact, we have been at pains to make the point as each day passes, the actual data, not what was presumed but what has actually occurred, gets put into this and the modelling, the process will be rerun to see where we are in real terms and where we are compared to where we thought we would be," he said.
Victoria recorded 42 new cases and eight more deaths on Wednesday as the average daily case number for metropolitan Melbourne dipped to 49.6, meaning Melbourne is on track to a much-anticipated easing of restrictions.
Originally published as 'Irrational': Sceptical doctor slams virus plan