Seven WA nurses in isolation in Melbourne — including one who has COVID-19 — will be permitted to return home as soon as they fly back to Perth without additional quarantine.
Health Minister Roger Cook on Wednesday said the nurses, including Renee Freeman who is currently battling coronavirus, had agreed with a plan for them to complete their 14-day quarantine period in Melbourne.
If the team are all declared clear of the virus at the end of the two weeks they will board a “clean” charter flight to WA.
On arrival in Perth they will be permitted to immediately return home to be with their families.
The plan was drawn-up yesterday and the nurses agreed to it earlier today. Mr Cook said it was the “speediest and safest” way to reunite nurses with their families.
All going well, they should board the charter flight to Perth in 11 days’ time, returning to WA on September 20.
Ms Freeman’s mother Michelle said the family was satisfied the plan was the “best outcome” the nurses could expect.
“For Renee to be able to get off the plane in Perth and go straight home to her (13-year-old) daughter is fabulous,” Mrs Freeman said.
“Everyone understands that it is very difficult to transport someone that is coronavirus positive so we just have to wait and see and hope she doesn’t deteriorate. She is still extremely tired but none of her other symptoms have escalated.”
WA deputy chief health officer Robyn Lawrence said she had spoken to the nurses, who she said felt supported and looked forward to returning home.
It comes after The West Australian and 7News revealed the family of Perth nurse Renee Freeman — who tested positive for coronavirus — felt she had been “abandoned” by the State Government.
Mrs Freeman on Tuesday said that prior to flying to Victoria, the nurses had been told they would be placed on a Royal Flying Doctor Service flight back to Perth in the event one of them contracted coronavirus.
When they left they were given assurances by the Health Department there was a contingency plan in place.
“When they left they were given assurances by the Health Department there was a contingency plan in place and anyone got the virus they would be medevaced back to Perth to isolate here,” Mrs Freeman said.
That was a position backed by Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation WA secretary Mark Olson who this morning said “(Mr Cook’s) people told these nurses they would fly them home”.
Dr Lawrence said the medevacs were discussed with the nurses during their orientation prior to flying to Melbourne but no commitments had been made.
“It was made clear that that would have to be assessed on the individual circumstances,” she said.
“Repatriation included plans… not only if there was COVID but if they had another illness or a family member had an illness back in WA.
“RFDS always remains an option for any repatriation. However, we need to keep that resource for people who need a medical evacuation and at this point in time that’s not required.”
She is terrified that something is going to happen.
Both Mr Cook and Premier Mark McGowan said the nurses were free to speak with the media after Mr Olson claimed they had been warned against doing so.
Ms Freeman was among the WA nurses who responded to a Government call for reinforcements to travel to Victoria and assist in the battle to contain coronavirus.
She is now being isolated away from the six other nurses, who must also complete 14 days quarantine in Melbourne despite testing negative.
Ms Freeman was among the first wave of five nurses that flew to Melbourne in early August and has spent the past month working at Royal Freemasons Gregory Lodge, a privately-operated facility in Melbourne, alongside three of her WA colleagues.
Her mother Michelle Freeman said when Renee arrived 12 residents at the aged care facility were infected with coronavirus and had been moved into a dedicated area of the facility, which was the responsibility of the Western Australian team.
However, by the start of last week each of those residents had either died of the disease or recovered, and the nursing home told Ms Freeman and her colleagues they no longer required full personal protective equipment and should revert to wearing only surgical masks.
Then on Friday, a male resident became sick and quickly deteriorated to the point he required hospitalisation. He subsequently tested positive to coronavirus on Saturday.
Mrs Freeman said the WA nurses – who had been in contact with the man but were not rostered to work Saturday – only found out about the diagnosis when they arrived back at work Sunday and found all the staff were back in full PPE.
They were each swabbed that day, with Renee’s test the only one that came back positive on Monday – the same day she started feeling sick.