ACEM statement – ICEG and Infection Prevention and Control Panel

Throughout this year, a key focus for the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM; the College) has been supporting our members and trainees, in the real world, on the frontline of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Our College’s work and advocacy in this regard has been collaborative, consulting our membership, seeking to educate the public and key decision makers about the challenges and high-risk environments our members and trainees face every day, while ensuring they have the necessary support and advocacy at the highest level of government and health systems.

ACEM celebrates the recent appointment of former College President Associate Professor Sally McCarthy to a newly-established Infection Prevention and Control Panel, to inform the work of ICEG and the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce. A/Prof McCarthy’s appointment will contribute strongly to raising the concerns of the ED workforce so that these may be addressed in the evolution of national guidelines.

This appointment is the result of significant advocacy efforts from the College. We expect voices and perspectives from the emergency department to be further enhanced and reflected in the work of ICEG, and that latest evidence and guidelines will be rapidly assessed and communicated, particularly where protection of healthcare workers is concerned.

We welcome this opportunity to have the views of emergency clinicians given further prominence, as we seek to ensure that infection control measures are evidence-based, fit-for-purpose, and implementable in our busy and often unpredictable high-risk clinical environment.

The appointment will also build upon the significant work carried out by the College, which includes the development of Clinical guidelines for the management of COVID-19 in Australasian emergency departments, in which A/Prof McCarthy has also been significantly involved.

These guidelines were developed with the goal of supporting the ED workforce in a time of great uncertainty in March, have been extensively edited since, and have been ahead of local health services, based on best evidence, incorporating the precautionary and extensive responses from countries which had experience with SARS, and got ahead of COVID-19.

ACEM has also recognised the possibility of airborne transmission of COVID-19 for months, and this is reflected in its guidelines.

As a College, we acknowledge the uncertainty, distress and anxiety experienced by our members and trainees this year, and have sought to provide support publicly, privately, and constructively and collaboratively via official channels, in acknowledgment of the fact all healthcare workers have an undeniable right to be safe at work.

The College understands the offense and concern many frontline staff will have felt at the recent reporting of comments made by the Chair of ICEG. We reiterate our firm position that healthcare workers need to be and feel valued, supported and protected by all levels of government, healthcare systems and hospitals; as well as their leaderships; amid the ongoing pandemic response.

We will not engage in reactionary and counter-productive public commentary, which neither reflects nor helps to address the complex and fast-moving environments our members and trainees are working in, their anxiety and uncertainty, and the many challenges they face.

On the contrary we will engage in media discourse that seeks to inform and support our people in what has been an incredibly trying year.

The College remains absolutely committed to the key objective of supporting members and trainees through this incredibly difficult time, and ensuring their voices and concerns are heard.

The College is here for its members and trainees, as well as of course the public of Australia.

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