Chinese community in frontline against coronavirus

The Hurstville Chinese community is at the frontline of the fight to contain any local outbreak of the coronavirus.

A meeting of NSW Health Authorities and Chinese doctors was organised by Georges River Councillor Nancy Liu on Wnedesday, January 29 to establish a connection between the 300-member strong Australian Chinese Medical Practitioners Society and NSW health authorities.

Cr Liu, who has close connections with the Chinese community, contacted NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on January 28 offering to introduce health officers to Chinese GPs and specialists.

"These people are in the frontline to help as many of their patients are of Chinese background," Cr Liu said.

"The meeting was set up for the health authorities to advise the doctors of what type of message and advice to provide to the Chinese community.

"But it is not only in one direction. The government is keen to listen to people from the frontline as well, and to hear the concerns from the community."

Cr Liu praised the government for its quick action.

"The Chief Medical Officer of NSW, Dr Kerry Chant contacted us immediately to discuss our concerns.

"They organised the meeting within two hours," Cr Liu said. "I have to congratulate the Minister and the Health authorities."

Held at Dixon Street, Haymarket, the meeting went for almost seven hours and was attended by Chinese media.

Dr Ven Tan's Healthpac Medical Centre operates from Hurstville, the city and at Chatswood.

As with the SARS virus 17 years ago, his practice has set aside a special room for patients who may have symptoms of the coronavirus.

"We haven't encountered anyone yet who has the coronavirus," he said.

Dr Tan said the specially convened conference had three objectives.

"The first was to raise funds to help overseas Chinese. When China is in trouble we like to chip-in and show we haven't forgotten the Motherland," Dr Tan said.

"Secondly, we want to pacify the emotions of the local Chinese community who are highly anxious about the situation. Thirdly, we want to promote positive information from NSW Health.

"As GPs we are at the coalface. My organisation, Healthpac has more than 100 GPS working with the Chinese community. They want to know how to prevent the illness and also to keep them informed of the spread of the illness.

"The Education Department policy is to advise parents to get a medical screening for their children before they go back to school.

"We have been providing screenings. We advise any people who come back from the Wuhan area and have a fever to self-isolate themselves for two weeks.

"We advise on how to stop the spread of the illness. We advise them to wash their hands, to wear masks, not to touch their mouth or eyes with dirty hands, and to stay out of crowded places, if possible."

Australian Chinese Medical Practitioners Society Vice-President, Dr Jiang Li, a GP based in Hurstville and the Sydney CBD, praised the quick action of NSW health authorities.

"Everyone has spent a lot of time and energy on this. They have acted very quickly," Dr Li said.

"Our members mainly come from mainland China and are mostly GPs and specialists," Dr Li said.

"We are discussing every day what is happening with the illness, what are the symptoms to look for and what equipment we will need to deal with it.

"We applied to the NSW health authorities for gloves and masks for the doctors because we are dealing with patients who have come back from mainland China.

"We want to calm down the community. We need to be cautious but not overly stressed.

"We need to consider setting up a special clinic to deal with the virus..

" We also need the equipment, the masks and gloves to prepare us.

"No-one knows what will happen next."