Heywood Rural Health is nothing if not ready should there ever be an outbreak of the coronavirus within its walls.
The healthcare organisation has spent the past couple of months ensuring anyone who comes to it for treatment will be looked after, as will staff.
It has upgraded its urgent care service to have it ready for coronavirus cases and worked with other healthcare organisations throughout the south west to ensure it – and they – have plenty of personal protective equipment.
The urgent care area has a new resuscitation trolley, a one-stop shop of sorts for medical staff.
“The old one was very un-user friendly,” said HRH workplace coach Lauren Newman.
Equipment was no disposable, instead of having to be taken to Portland for sterilisation
The equipment was paid for from a state government fund specifically relating to the coronavirus.
Nurses’ skills had also been upgraded.
“We wanted to make sure all the staff were able to feel confident putting in IV’s,” Ms Newman said. “The organisation was very generous – they funded the registered nurses to all re-do the advanced life support (course) and IV cannulation (putting a tube into a vein to allow medicine and fluids to be administered intravenously).
“We’ve got a pretty skilled workforce now and lovely equipment to go with that as well.”
The urgent care area is also set up so nurses can practise their skills in the room.
Ms Newman said HRH’s role was to stabilise patients until they could go in an ambulance to Portland, Warrnambool or further afield.
Staff are also being protected – thanks to a lot of planning between many organisations, but also within HRH itself.
Support services Manager Leigh Beddows said an incident management team formed to deal with the cyberattack crisis last year came back together to deal with the threat of the coronavirus.
“Part of our planning was sourcing additional (personal protective equipment) to protect the staff, residents in aged care and the community,” he said.
“We were kind of fortunate through South West Healthcare, the lead supplier for the region, in collaboration with all the purchasing managers of all the hospitals, to form a regional committee to share ideas, resources and PPE and we had a clear vision of what we all had.
“If any of us need something, the others can help. There’s the option to swap with say Portland, Hamilton or Warrnambool or whoever if we had to.
“The collaboration or larger agencies keeps the smaller rural agencies afloat and safe and protected.”
The likes of Timboon gin distillery and Sun Pharmaceuticals in Port Fairy retooled equipment to produce hand sanitiser, which was a big help.
HRH had some surplus equipment but was not hoarding it.
“While the rest of the world was scrambling round for hand sanitiser or toilet roll, we were trying to secure health equipment,” Mr Beddows said.
“The (Department of Health and Human Services) set up a pandemic warehouse in Melbourne and that is starting to come through now. We’re able to secure PPE.
“The main threat now is flu season coming through and making sure we have enough PPE if required.”
Mr Beddows said it was important that staff were well aware of what the organisation was doing.
“We set up the central PPE store outside urgent care,” he said.
“It calms the nerves of staff to know we’ve got plenty there.
“There’s also some alternative products coming through that they don’t recognise so we’re reassuring them it’s still medically safe and fit for purpose.”
But is was not only PPE, but food that needed to be stocked, given that ensured aged care residents could be fed even if there was a disruption to the supply chain.
The pandemic food store room includes a mobile freezer.
“The rumours quickly few around town that it was a mobile morgue, but it’s actually got three weeks’ worth of food in there,” Mr Beddows said.
- Meanwhile HRH community health hub manager Jacki Barnett said the hub was still open.
Both GPs – Samsun Nahar and Erin Gordon – hadn’t stopped their services.
Allied health staff still able to offer their services.
“We do a telephone screen with everyone or a consultation by phone where appropriate,” she said.
There was a drive-through flu vaccine clinic which had been “very successful and well received”.
“The demand from the community has been really, really high,” Ms Barnett said.
District nursing services were still going and on top of that HRH was sending out information packs to clients to keep them up to date.
“We also have regular phone follow-ups with them,” Mrs Barnett said.
“We’re very mindful that mental health is important too.”
There was also information in the packs about the Royal Flying Doctor Service provided by Tess Howells as well as online and telehealth services.