Leanne Seiffert the nurse manager of Lismore Base Hospital's Peri-Operative Department.
Leanne Seiffert the nurse manager of Lismore Base Hospital's Peri-Operative Department.

International nurses to the rescue

AS THE coronavirus pandemic places more strain on our health system, we are set for an influx of student nurses to help share the load.

The Northern NSW Local Health District has advertised for nursing assistance following the government's relaxation of visa conditions for international student nurses who currently are studying in Australia.

"Already we've had nearly 50 applications," Health District chief executive Wayne Jones said.

"We haven't settled on the number we'll take on; it depends on the calibre of the applicants.

"We are absolutely thrilled with the number of applicants, they should be able to assist in aged care, too."

He said a small number of health workers were off work self-isolating at present, in most cases due to recent overseas travel.

The local health district is considering opening another fever clinic in Grafton later this week, and there are plans in the works for more.

"We have been negotiating with the Primary Health Network, and provided recommendations on where they should be establishing respiratory clinics," Mr Jones said.

"At this stage we recommend clinics open in Ballina, Murwillumbah and Yamba."

However this is a Commonwealth matter and the federal government has not yet announced locations of planned respiratory clinics.

While more people fell ill with COVID-19 across the state, bringing the total to 382 on Friday, there have been no positive tests in the area since the fifth confirmed case on Thursday afternoon.

"This is pleasing but we anticipate more cases," Mr Jones said.

"There are thousands of Australians returning from overseas, places that are far more exposed to the virus."

The origin of the fifth case on the North Coast remains under investigation.

"For now we are contact-tracing," Mr Jones said.

"The individual's movements have been quite limited outside of their residential property."

All five local cases remain in self-isolation.

Clinical and non-clinical hospital staff have been refreshing their training on infection control.

Meanwhile, Southern Cross University has been working with the health district and accreditation and registration bodies to fast-track international and domestic student nurse registrations.

The North Coast Primary Health Network has been contacted to confirm details of possible respiratory clinics.