Echuca Regional Health planning in case of coronavirus outbreak

By Anna McGuinness

ECHUCA Regional Health is putting plans in place to ensure it has resources to draw on if a serious coronavirus outbreak occurs in Echuca-Moama.

ERH executive director of nursing June Dyson said the hospital was well advanced in planning for the expected increase in demand for hospital care over the coming weeks.

“Our primary focus at this time is ensuring we have sufficient staff to manage acutely unwell patients in a safe and supportive environment for patients, staff and the community,” she said.

“We are fortunate that currently all areas are fully staffed and many of our staff have already flagged their willingness to pick up extra shifts and work in areas of greatest need.

“There are a number of short- and longer-term strategies put in place to support us in responding promptly and effectively in this ever-changing and evolving landscape.”

Ms Dyson said many patients with COVID-19 would experience only mild symptoms; however, there would be some with acute respiratory distress requiring intensive care support.

“ERH does not have a designated Intensive Care Unit currently but does have a six-bed High Dependency Unit able to manage patients with high clinical needs,” she said.

“As part of our planning, we have explored how ERH may in certain circumstances be able to provide ICU-level care for a limited number of patients.

“We have five machines able to provide invasive ventilation and are fortunate to have sufficient numbers of trained ICU nurses and skilled doctors to safely care for patients requiring breathing support should this be required.”

The hospital is also looking to fast-track the implementation of a Rural Undergraduate Student of Nursing program, which was successfully piloted last year and saw second- and third-year nurses employed on a part-time basis with health services in the region.

“Our workforce planning has also included developing a staff ‘skills matrix’ which clearly identifies the breadth and depth of clinical skills and experience across all clinical disciplines. This will assist us in any staff redeployment decisions that are required as the situation escalates,” Ms Dyson said.