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"A disaster that is already happening." A Perth doctor on the reality of hotel quarantine.

For more than three weeks now, all inbound passengers to Australia (who are now only Australian residents and citizens) have been forcibly quarantined in hotels for 14 days upon their arrival in one of many measures enforced to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

For practically that entire time, some international travellers confined to hotel rooms have spoken about what they believe is unfair treatment, where they receive three microwave meals a day and have no access to fresh air.

A Perth doctor placed in charge of quarantined travellers in the city’s hotels has described the conditions as “very, very dangerous,” telling Lisa Wilkinson on The Sunday Project some patients are being released early and she was tasked with seeing hundreds of potentially infected people without personal protection equipment (PPE).

Dr Julie Manasseh on The Sunday Project. Post continues below video.

Video via Channel 10

Dr Julie Manasseh said she was shocked with what she found while caring for 600 returned travellers at the Crown Promenade and Metropol hotels with two hours notice after she accepted a short-term medical assignment.

“When we arrived at the sights, there was no PPE for us, and it still hadn’t arrived by the end of the first week that I had been working there,” she said, also saying she was not told if a patient in her care tested positive for COVID-19.

“We, the doctors at the coal face, were never informed of any result, whether positive or negative, by the Health Department.”

She said she was concerned about the welfare of the guests, many of whom she said were anxious and “on the edge”.

The Sunday Project segment included disturbing footage of a Navy veteran, suffering from longstanding PTSD, half-naked and screaming as he struggled to cope with his solitary confinement.

“This was a man who had ample medical grounds for exemption. We just asked for him to have a room where he could have an outdoor area to at least not be completely closed in,” Dr Manasseh said.

“But he was knocked back time and time again in spite of three doctors and a psychiatrist who was also desperately wanting to get him out of there.”

He was eventually relocated to another hotel with a small garden.

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When an ambulance arrived at a hotel without Dr Manasseh ordering it, she discovered travellers under her care were being released from quarantine early without her sign-off.

Dr Manasseh alleged an elderly woman with underlying medical conditions was released for a medical assessment just four days after returning home from Bali.

“[Ambulance staff] said apparently there’s some sort of directive from Public Health to release a guest early from quarantine,” she recalled, saying the woman did not appreciate being challenged about her release.

“She started threatening me that she would make sure I never worked again. She goes, ‘I had spoken to my GP. I told him I have claustrophobia and I hate being in a hotel room like this. And he made some phone calls. And that’s why I’m being let out’ and you’re trying to stop this.”

The woman was returned to the hotel quarantine after a medical assessment at hospital, but was released the next day while Dr Manasseh was off duty.

The next day Dr Manasseh was sacked.

She received a phone call “to inform me I was no longer wanted to come back to the job by the Health Department,” she said.

The segment aired the image of a Whatsapp message from another doctor, that alleged guests were also released early from the hotel they were presiding over.

Dr Manasseh called the situation “very, very dangerous”.

“It makes me feel very sad, ashamed and disappointed that this is the behaviour of our health department. They are supposed to be our leaders,” she said.

“It is actually a disaster that is already happening.”

hotel quarantine australia
Travellers arrive for hotel quarantine in Australia. Image: Getty.
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The Western Australia Health Department responded to The Sunday Project in a statement saying that some passengers were released from quarantine early "due to medical reasons" as verified by their usual GP or an onsite clinician.

"However, these people are still required to remain in quarantine until they have served their 14-day period, but within a more appropriate setting for the condition, which is generally at their home."

The department denied there was a lack of PPE available for doctors.

In early April, Mamamia spoke to people quarantined inside Sydney hotels about the conditions they were living in.

Classical pianist Ambre Hammond stressed her room was "very nice, but it's a quarantine facility - there’s no laundry service or room service or minibar; everything is controlled by the government.

"Imagine being in a 3.5 x 4-metre locked space 24 hours a day, with a guard outside your door, sealed windows and no fresh air."

Hammond stressed she understood the need for quarantine to ensure the protection of the community, but she argued that adequate measures hadn't put in place to ensure the wellbeing of those subjected to it.

"I know everyone involved is trying to do their best, and none of this is the fault of the hotel or the hotel staff," she said. "But [in planning this quarantine process] there needs to be some more humanity and compassion and regard for basic human rights, which we are being denied."

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To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

Feature image: Channel 10.

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