An independent inquiry into the North-West COVID-19 outbreak needs to address how misinformation was spread at the highest levels, the Labor party says.
In a submission to the inquiry, Labor health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said the party was concerned the stigma and stress on health workers on the North-West Coast had been exacerbated by misinformation.
She said this included Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy telling a New Zealand committee the outbreak was likely caused by an illegal dinner party and Prime Minister Scott Morrison telling a Hobart radio station a health worker who tested positive for COVID-19 had lied to public health officials about where they had been.
The source of these allegations has not been made clear with Tasmania Police finding no such dinner party took place and Public Health director Mark Veitch confirming the Prime Minister had not been briefed on the health worker matter.
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“Given the undue stress these comments placed on health workers at an already difficult time, Labor considers it important that the inquiry attempts to answer how this misinformation was passed,” Ms Lovell said.
“This should not be dismissed as a trivial matter – it had a material impact on staff morale at a critical time.”
In the submission, Ms Lovell also called on the inquiry to investigate the state’s essential worker exemption scheme, the Tasmanian Health Service’s preparedness, the impact of the North-West lockdown and the management of aged care staff working across multiple facilities.
She said questions needed to answered about communication between the THS and other health facilities when new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
“Most recently there has been another case of COVID-19 identified at the North West Regional Hospital. Labor is aware some staff at the adjacent North West Private Hospital were not made aware of this case until they heard it on the news that night, even thought they had been working at the facility throughout the day,” Ms Lovell said.