Originally Published on Ipswich First in April 2020

Ipswich City Council staff have answered the call from the West Moreton Public Health Unit for assistance.

The West Moreton Public Health Unit conducts contact tracing, which along with physical distancing, has been a powerful combination in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Ipswich.

After Queensland declared a public health emergency late in January, West Moreton Health reached out to Ipswich City Council for assistance and teams began training with health officers to ensure they are able to effectively undertake the work they will be doing.

About eight council officers are now working with health officers in the West Moreton Public Health Unit to assist as required and more council officers are being trained as the need arises.

Contact tracing is the process used to put the pieces of the puzzle together around how someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 became sick and then contact whoever the sick person may have been in contact with while infectious.

This detective work gives health professionals a clearer picture to understand how the virus is spreading in the community.

Ipswich City Council Environmental Health manager Peter Clifton said the work his team will be undertaking in coming weeks is very different to their normal roles.

“Usually officers conduct food safety inspections of local food businesses or investigate environmental complaints,” Mr Clifton said.

“We are looking forward to assisting West Moreton Health in a range of various tasks that they require us to undertake.

“We are currently in the process of training and shadowing health staff so we can hit the ground running.”

West Moreton Health’s Public Health Physician Dr Catherine Quagliotto said it is the role of Environmental Health officers to work with the rest of the Public Health Unit team to reduce the opportunity for further transmission of COVID-19 and provide advice to a range of stakeholders.

“It is of course a busy time as we respond to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and we are grateful to be able to call on our counterparts at Ipswich City Council to assist the West Moreton Health Public Health Unit,” Dr Quagliotto said.

“The unit’s work is the first line of response for the West Moreton community and essential to flatten the curve by identifying new infections and preventing further transmission.  

“They also make sure anyone with COVID-19 is following isolation and quarantine requirements.”

Members of the Environmental Health team are excited to be able to put council’s purpose statement ‘together we proudly enhance the quality of life for our community’ into action.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us and we are focusing all of our energy on this important work,” Mr Clifton said.

“We are lucky to work with a great team and look forward to learning new skills along the way.”