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Estimates: Questions on Hotel Quarantine, insecure work and infection control

In Parliamentary Estimates on Thursday 10 December 2020, I asked a series of questions about the security of work for staff involved in hotel quarantining.

You can read the answer below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: I have a question for the DG. Given the breakouts in Victoria and South Australia from hotel quarantine and how those have highlighted a pretty major risk, stemming from insecure work in some respects, can you indicate how many security guards, cleaners or other hotel staff at Queensland’s hotel quarantine hotels are working second and third jobs?

Dr Wakefield: The Queensland Police Service are responsible for running the really critically important and successful hotel quarantine arrangements in partnership with QFES and as part of our statewide disaster planning. In relation to the specific question, I think the detail of that response would be best probably addressed by the Queensland Police Service. In terms of the specific answer to the question, I do not have that information to hand. I can say though, and I think it is important—

Mr MOLHOEK: Can we take that on notice?

CHAIR: I will make a ruling on that. Director-General, I am sorry to interrupt. Member for Maiwar, I think it borders on hypothetical when you are asking if they have other jobs.

Mr BERKMAN: Chair, it is clearly a question of fact. It may not be one that can be answered on the spot, but it is absolutely a question of fact and not a hypothetical.

Mr MOLHOEK: Can we take that on notice?

CHAIR: I would ask the member to rephrase. I am sorry: Minister?

Mrs D’ATH: I was just going to say that I will not be proposing to take that question on notice. To clarify for the member, we do not employ security guards. We use the QPS to manage our hotel quarantine.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. The question has been answered.

Mr BERKMAN: The question went to staff and cleaners in Queensland’s hotel quarantine hotels, not simply security guards.

Ms KING: Point of order, Chair. Given that it is a matter under the portfolio of another minister all together, perhaps it goes to relevance.

CHAIR: I am going to ask that perhaps the member for Maiwar asks another question. The minister has answered the question.

Dr Wakefield: Through the Chair, if I may, in relation to that, I do not have that specific information but I think it is very pertinent to the context of this that there was a recent decision made by the Chief Health Officer based on, I think, the experience of other jurisdictions, and it is part of a national approach, to roll out testing of staff involved in providing the hotel quarantine services—people such as health people who are in the building, the cleaning staff and so on, especially with reference to the recent case in New South Wales. We take this very seriously. With that recent testing, and I have some numbers on that available, the uptake has been pretty swift. I think that is another layer of defence that really adds to the safety of the quarantine hotels.

Ms BATES: Point of order, Chair. I think the question was specific. I think the Director-General has answered it. Can we please move on?

CHAIR: I was interested in hearing the response, but, member for Maiwar, do you have another question?

Mr BERKMAN: Obviously QPS officers, as hard working as they are, will not have the expertise in infection control that Queensland Health staff and nurses would have. How is the department ensuring that those practices are in place through the QPS?

CHAIR: I think that is probably a question more for the police, member for Maiwar.

Mr BERKMAN: It is a question about expertise that is held by the Health Department and Department of Health officers. If I were to put the question to the QPS they would tell me that it is within the remit of the Department of Health. If you would not mind at least allowing the DG to answer?

CHAIR: A brief answer.

Dr Wakefield: Again, it is a very important question. Infection control is critical to achieving the objective of hotel quarantine and we take that very seriously. Every quarantine hotel has an allocated hospital and health service. We are also very grateful to the Mater health service for they have taken about a quarter of those hotels. As a consequence of that, whilst the police are responsible for managing the hotels and managing the hotel quarantine system, we have a very strong health overlay, both from the perspective of supporting people in quarantine with their health needs and also in relation to advice and issues management pertaining to infection control. It is a critical matter. You will recall also that some weeks ago Metro South, working with the department and the QPS, established what I will call our medi hotel, because that is the easy way of describing it. This is not a hotel for COVID-positive patients; it is a quarantine hotel for people with special needs, health needs. We have found with the change in demographic over time of people coming, particularly international returnees, that patients are often older. They may have chronic disease and—

Ms BATES: Point of order, Chair. The question was specifically about the QPS and how they handle quarantining. It was not about what Queensland Health does.

CHAIR: I think there has been some connection made between health and police. Director-general, we are almost out of time on this particular block of questioning. We will move to the member for Mudgeeraba.

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