Gippsland Region Public Health Unit,

Health sector all aboard Phillip Island cruise ships

Cruise ships carrying hundreds of passengers will soon begin arriving at Phillip Island.

While a boon for the local tourism sector, Gippsland Region Public Health Unit (GRPHU) Operations Director Annelies Titulaer said her team was working with Bass Coast Health and Ambulance Victoria to prepare for cruise ship arrivals and possible health events or outbreaks.

The multi-agency partnership was formed last year when the Phillip Island Port first started receiving cruise ships.

”While last year didn’t see any health events requiring escalation, it provided us all with some valuable lessons in terms of the relationships and the processes we’ll need to step up our response,” Annelies said.

Cruise ships, due to their close quarters and the movement of travellers between various locations, can be associated with an increased risk of infectious diseases, namely respiratory infections (such as Covid-19 and Influenza) and gastroenteritis outbreaks (caused by pathogens like Norovirus or Campylobacter). When detected and notified, outbreaks of these conditions will trigger a response from land-based health agencies and local public health units.

“Before any ship arrives, we receive a briefing from the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit about any possible risk factors they may have identified during the voyage. Based on that briefing, agencies such as Bass Coast Health and Ambulance Victoria (Gippsland) can respond if necessary to ensure passengers receive the best care where needed and the community are protected,” Bass Coast Health Chief Executive Jan Child said.

Phillip Island is used to event-based increases in population with the Grand Prix circuit attracting thousands of visitors on particular weekends and the Island being a favourite destination over summer for Victorians.

“We are fortunate in some ways to have experience with the need to step up our oversight and provision of service to the Island through any given year,” Ambulance Victoria Gippsland Emergency Management Coordinator Danny Anderson said.

“With that in mind, the arrival of cruise ships does provide us with an extra challenge but one that the partnership between ourselves, Bass Coast Health, the Gippsland Regional Public Health Unit and the community allows us to be confident that we have measures in place to manage any health events that the cruise ships may encounter

This season 11 cruise ships are expected to berth at Phillip Island with the first ship arriving on 10 December and the last on 27 April 2024.

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