Sick Baby Trapped by Cruel Border Bureaucracy

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Annastacia Palaszczuk

The Queensland Government hit a new low this week, refusing to let a family with a sick child drive home from Sydney to quarantine at their isolated rural property, 250 kilometres west of Brisbane.

Jessie Evans, her partner Billy Blacker, and their four-month-old son Rocka, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, drove to Sydney last month for the child’s treatment at Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick.

Angel Flight offer refused

Now trying to get home, the family has been told by Queensland Border officials that they cannot return by car. They must fly to Brisbane and undertake two weeks of quarantine in Brisbane, despite an offer from Angel Flight  to take them on a private, sterile aircraft from Sydney to an airstrip near their home, avoiding exposure risks.

Queensland Health does have an exemption which allows people to drive directly to hotel quarantine but has stated that these are “rarely granted”  because the situation “presents an unacceptable risk with the potential of stopping along the way, for example, for fuel”.

Border officials have told the family that Jessie and Rocka can isolate at a local hospital in Brisbane while Billy stays in hotel quarantine at the family’s expense. This will separate the family, and given Rocka’s condition, for which there is no cure, robs them of precious time together.

The family have all tested negative to Covid, and Rocka is immuno-compromised, the longer the family has to stay in Sydney or travel through airports and other public spaces, the greater the health risks are for Rocka.

Letting in the WAGs but locking out ordinary Australians

It’s just the latest in a string of examples where Queensland health officials have failed real families, despite opening borders regularly to cricketers, footballers, wives and girlfriends.

At the same time as letting in the footballers’ entourage, anyone trying to enter Queensland from New South Wales, the ACT or Victoria had been banned, no exceptions because the Queensland Government had “paused” arrivals to give it’s overloaded quarantine system respite.

This snap “pause” left dozens of families trying to relocate to the state, or get home, stranded in other parts of Australia.

Last year the Queensland Government was too slow allowing a border pass for a  pregnant New South Wales woman who required emergency surgery. The exemption came after the woman had already waited 16 hours, and then flown to Sydney. One of the babies died as a result of the delays.

The Prime Minister, the Federal Treasure and the NSW Health Minister have each, on separate occasions called the border rules “cruel”, citing the numerous examples of people who have not been able to seek medical treatment in Queensland, missed opportunities to visit sick relatives, or to say “goodbye” to dying ones because of harsh border rules.

Bureaucratic border ‘cruelty’

But this doesn’t seem to deter the Queensland Premier who recently said interstate borders would not open until “every single” person in the state had been offered a vaccine.

Queensland has also refused to budge on a statement it made some time ago that NSW must have 28 days of no unknown community transmission before it will open the border.

Despite the fact that Northern Rivers communities are no longer included in the New South Wales lockdown, they still face uncertainty about whether or not they will be permitted to travel over the Queensland border.

Last year, under pressure, the Queensland Government created a ‘border bubble’ including those areas close to, or on the border, which are full of residents who are used to crossing the border for work, school, shopping, healthcare and other services.

In one street, the border technically runs down the middle, so the northern side of the street falls in Queensland and the southern side is in New South Wales.

The border bubble allowed these people to move freely without the need for border passes. However, right now there is no certainty whether the bubble will be reinstated.

The Queensland Government is reviewing the situation in the coming weeks.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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