Hospitals prepared for pandemic


By Tate Papworth

Western Health, which operates the Sunshine and Footscray hospitals, said it was well advanced in preparations for a possible outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The organisation’s executive director operations Natasha Toohey said a team of staff with decades of experience in infection prevention and the management of infectious diseases has been set up to oversee planning for a potential pandemic of coronavirus.

“The team are well advanced in developing extensive contingency plans for how Western Health would respond to a pandemic,” she said.

“Measures are already in place to rapidly identify and isolate patients with suspected COVID-19.

“Work is well advanced to address the many components that would need to be in place for a pandemic response, including extensive infection prevention refresher training for our healthcare workers and education on correct transmission based precautions.”

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last Thursday that he has initiated Australia’s coronavirus emergency response plan.

“We believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us, and as a result, as a government, we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic,” he said.

Mr Morrison said Australian Border Force would draw up plans for extra measures at airports to ensure travellers suspected of having the virus can be quarantined or self-quarantined quickly and effectively.

Western Health had not treated any confirmed cases of the virus at the time of writing.

Ms Toohey said the hospital’s ability to manage a high volume of cases is also being assessed.

“We are planning for how high volumes of patients could be managed and how this would impact other services we provide.

“Visitor access and movement must also be considered.

“Monitoring and managing our staff and planning for the impact on staffing levels if community mitigation measures are put in place is another key consideration.”