Repeated warnings over coronavirus test crisis ignored by civil servants, Weldon says
A scientist sounded the alarm four times last week that the coronavirus test system was about to be overwhelmed by the latest outbreak — but was ignored by Government officials.
Carika Weldon, the director of the Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, said she warned that thousands of additional tests before this week’s reopening of public schools was unworkable.
Dr Weldon said: “I was told that education had to be pushed forward and we had to make it work.”
Dr Weldon added she knew by December 29 that “the maths is pretty simple, and we didn’t have enough staff to do it”.
“They didn’t respect my opinion.”
She was speaking after she announced that she was to quit her job at the end of this month — just months after she signed a new contract.
Dr Weldon declined to name who she had spoken to.
But she said: “It’s really just about civil servants.”
It is understood that the problem was worsened because acting ministers had covered the health and education portfolios over the holidays.
Dr Weldon said: “I was supposed to be off from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day and ended up working most of that time.
“My mental health was struggling. I put the country first, but it really boils down to bearing the country on my shoulders. It’s a lot.
“It led me to realise I was struggling with my mental health. I’ve been in dark places before.”
She added that as she watched numbers soar after Christmas, she came to the conclusion that “I do not want to be in this”.
Dr Weldon emphasised: “I am not at odds with the Premier. That’s not what is happening here.
“I’m not resigning to get back at him — I want to make that very clear.”
She also hit back on social media at accusations that she had quit after she had become rich from the pandemic.
She revealed in a Twitter post on Thursday that she had just started a three-year contract worth $240,000 a year.
She wrote: “If it was about money, I would not have stepped away.”
MDL is still short on staff and Dr Weldon said more staff had been forced to take time off because they were close contacts of people who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
She added: “We have other people waiting for their contracts and we’ve asked for it to be actioned.
“We’ve all accepted we are behind. We pride ourselves on keeping up with demand.
“It’s been mentally taxing for each of them. It makes them feel bad because they are used to efficiency. We’re just keeping pressing on.”
Dr Weldon also revealed she had “no idea” where she would go next.
She admitted: “I don’t know my next step.
“Some people might think I’m crazy for that, but at the end of the day I have to believe in myself. I’m not really worried about where I’m going next.”
Dr Weldon said: “I don’t want to manage another country’s Covid.”