PERTH public hospitals are undertaking a “stocktake” of nurses capable of caring for COVID-19 patients in the event of a major outbreak of the deadly disease.
The assessment and training of nurses is part of the planning which saw the State Government announce fever clinics would open next week at Sir Charles Gairdner, Fiona Stanley and Royal Perth and test people suspected of having the virus.
Nurses caring for coronavirus patients have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) – gloves, full-body gown, respiratory mask, facial shield and goggles.
“All nursing staff are trained in the use of personal protective equipment,” a Health Department spokesperson said.
“All hospitals – including SCGH, Fiona Stanley, Royal Perth and Perth Children’s – are currently undertaking a stocktake of nursing staff who are proficient in the use of ventilators and powered air-purifying respirators, commonly known as PAPRs.
“This will help to inform additional training or upskilling requirements for nursing personnel.”
Hospitals have also been examining their readiness to open wards for coronavirus victims if needed – including SCGH, which treated Perth travel agent James Kwan and his wife in isolation rooms before Mr Kwan was moved to intensive care and died on Sunday.
“Comprehensive planning and preparation is being undertaken by the Department of Health in anticipation of COVID-19 becoming more widespread in WA,” the department spokesperson said.
“As part of these plans it is exploring a range of options for managing COVID-19 patients. A statewide audit is currently underway to determine hospitals’ capacity to ‘cohort’ infected patients. This will assist in determining where COVID-19 patients are sent.
“Cohorting infectious patients, involves isolating them together in a negative-pressure isolation ward or – if at capacity – in segregated cohort areas.
“The capacity to cohort infectious patients varies from hospital to hospital.”
Joondalup Health Campus is ready to convert an area of the hospital into a “negative pressure/isolation ward” if needed.
A hospital spokesperson said like other WA hospitals it had erected WA Health Department posters imploring patients to inform staff if they had travelled overseas and had a fever.
“The WA public health system, including Joondalup Health Campus, manages and treats communicable diseases every day such as influenza, measles, pertussis and pneumococcal infection, and is well-equipped and prepared to deal with such cases,” the spokesperson said.
“Strict infectious disease control processes are in place at Joondalup Health Campus and the hospital continues to work closely with the WA Department of Health.”
Community News understands general nurses at SCGH not involved in the sick WA couple’s care were last week called to impromptu training on nursing patients with the virus.
It covered the use of PPE, the handling of room items such as bed linen and how meals were brought into patients.
Community understands respiratory masks are in such high demand at SCGH, they have been locked away, separated from general supplies.