COMMENT

Coronavirus cases in Hunter New England Health area

Do you think it is acceptable that this region's news outlets find it difficult to get information from Hunter New England Local Health during a time such as this?

Well, we are led to believe it is a crisis situation by both the federal and state governments, whose messaging so far has led to both panic and precaution.

Supermarkets cannot keep up with the demand panic buyers are creating, and businesses are sending as many staff as possible to work from home, in an attempt to slow the infection rate of this new disease down to manageable proportions.

Among all that, the majority of people are co-operating, socially distancing, so hospitals will not be overwhelmed as they were when COVID-19 swept through Iran and Italy.

While it has been common practice for Hunter New England Health not to reveal the town where they have had cases of disease, such as meningococcal, in this case, the lack of detail allows rumours to flourish.

Media outlets in this region receiving one media release update of the situation each afternoon from HNELH with a list of cases from both the Hunter and New England regions. When we have contacted their media department to ask the exact location of the cases, the response has been that it is a breach of patient privacy to reveal which community has the COVID-19 case, and releasing the information would have "no health benefit".

Sadly, in the absence of such details, we have noticed rumours and speculation are filling the void. And the health service is unable to confirm or deny the rumours.

Under the circumstances we face, we believe it would benefit communities to know if they face the beginning of their outbreak.

Names and addresses are not necessary nor expected, but surely, information of a case (or cases) existing within a certain community provides timely information. Likewise, information about the number of people who have recovered may be a good statistic to get out there too.

On Wednesday, state MP Adam Marshall wrote in a newsletter from his office that the electorate had no cases of COVID-19.

Northern Tablelands journalists had tried unsuccessfully to get that information, and faced what seems to be the usual "nothing to see here" policy of the health service.

We ask, if the local member can provide this information, why can't the health service?