08/07/2020 | Stephen Wade MLC | Better Services

Two separate COVID-19 surveillance projects are set to commence at the Royal Adelaide Hospital to further assess the prevalence of coronavirus in the community.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the projects, one of which was testing elective surgery patients, would further protect South Australians from potential outbreaks.

“A comprehensive strategy to monitor and contain the possible spread of this nasty disease is a key plank in the Marshall Liberal Government’s strong plan to protect South Australians from the impacts of COVID-19,” Minister Wade said.

“Our state was the first in the nation to ease restrictions on elective surgery and surveillance trials will give us further confidence going forward.”

Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) Head of Cardiothoracic Anaesthesia, Dr Tom Painter, said the RAH will join selected hospitals throughout Australia in a one-month trial where adult elective surgery patients will be asked to participate in the study and be tested for a current or previous infection.

“South Australia has performed incredibly well in its battle against COVID-19, with just 443 cases reported since the first case in February,” Dr Painter said.

‘‘We hope this project will confirm that the rate of coronavirus infection in South Australians having elective surgery is as low as we expect.

“The results of the surveillance project will be used to guide hospitals and health services across Australia as we recommence different activities.”

Fourteen public and private hospitals across Australia are taking part in the project which will see about 3,000 patients get a nasal swab and blood samples taken while under general anaesthesia.

The Commonwealth initiative comes after international evidence indicated patients infected with COVID-19, who underwent surgery, were at a heightened risk of death or serious respiratory issues.

The study, led by researchers at University of Birmingham in Britain, examined data from hospitals mainly in Europe and America that have battled severe outbreaks of COVID-19.

Dr Painter said the involvement of the RAH patients is important to identify undetected cases of COVID-19 in the community.

“This study will identify undetected cases of COVID-19 so we can ensure we have a clear understanding of the rate of coronavirus in the community and can continue to move forward safely.”

Staff at the RAH will also be invited to take part in a study to assess the level of COVID-19 in healthcare workers.

SA Pathology Clinical Service Director, Dr Tom Dodd, said the trial is being run by SA Pathology’s Immunology Department.

“The study will assess RAH staff, SA Pathology staff and General Practitioners who may or may not have been exposed to patients with COVID-19 as part of their work,” Dr Dodd said.

“Willing staff will be asked to donate a small blood sample which will then be assessed for the presence of COVID-19 specific antibodies.

“The results of the trial will provide valuable information about the rate of exposure and the levels of protective immunity in those working on the frontline.”
Participant recruitment will run until 31 July 2020.