The man was unaware that he was at risk of being infected, or infecting others, and it remains unclear if he had the virus before he was admitted to hospital. Recent research into how the disease behaves suggests symptoms appear roughly five days after infection.
“Over the weekend, the patient developed a mild cough and was tested for COVID-19, returning a positive result,” Ms Toohey said.
“Twenty-four staff are self-quarantining as a precaution and testing is under way.”
Ms Toohey stressed no other patients have been identified as being close contacts of the injured man. None of the staff tested so far have returned a positive COVID-19 result.
“No other patients were at risk as the patient was managed in a single room,” Ms Toohey said.
Earlier this week, a Melbourne psychiatric clinic at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak was shuttered and its patients transferred to The Alfred hospital as a 16th positive COVID-19 case linked to the cluster emerged.
AMA Victorian president Julian Rait said both incidents demonstrated the vulnerability of the healthcare system to potential outbreaks.
He added that a state government move to expand testing should be rolled-out to everyone who presents at medical clinics and hospitals.
A cluster of at least 15 coronavirus cases at The Alfred hospital led to the deaths of three cancer patients and saw another two patients infected, alongside 10 hospital staff.
On Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that 100,000 Victorians will be tested for COVID-19 over two weeks before a decision is taken on easing stage three restrictions.
“If they’re going to do that, I think they should be screening everybody who comes in,” Professor Rait said. “It obviously would be good to screen people, particularly in places like psychiatric facilities where staff are having close contact with patients and social distancing isn’t always possible.”
Associate Professor Rait, said other countries in the world, including the US had increased testing of people entering into the healthcare system, which had detected more cases of the virus and reduced the risk of outbreaks in hopsitals.
Ms Toohey dismissed any suggestions that staff may have been put at heightened risk by a shortage in personal protective equipment, including faces mask and gowns.
“All staff at Western Health have access to a personal protective face shield, surgical face masks, eye protection and other required personal protective equipment,” Ms Toohey said.
“The safety of our staff is paramount and Western Health took immediate action in response to this positive result. This includes contact tracing of staff and notifying Department of Health and Human Services.”
The department has been contacted for comment.
Melissa Cunningham is The Age’s health reporter.