Covid Messages from Russell

COVID Messages from Russell – 16 July

July 16, 2020

After being able to take a brief period of leave, in such a short period of time, I can see that an enormous amount of additional work has been done right across the health service. Everyone is pulling together to provide the care to our growing volume of very unwell non-COVID patients, as well as reaching a point of maximum preparation for the increasing number of COVID patients. Thank you to the whole team for continuing to pull together to provide Best Care to our community

With new cases in Victoria reaching a new daily high of 317 today, you will no doubt be wanting to know just how well prepared we are to cope with increasing presentations. I believe Western Health’s surge planning is fantastic and I am confident we have the greatest possible range of contingencies in place. This includes scaling back services where possible, to provide scope to support a surge.

The work we are doing to support aged care residents in great need due to COVID outbreaks, is not easy work and has been made possible through the dedicated efforts of our amazing team of geriatricians, nurses and allied health staff, including great leadership by Dr Clare White, along with all of the staff who work across these wards. I know that these vulnerable elderly patients are in good hands.

The surge is also being incredibly well supported too by the staff in our community outreach roles. They are doing a great job creating additional in-home care capacity to help take the pressure off our inpatient wards.

As the number of COVID patients in hospitals increase, our workforce needs are also increasing and this is another area where there has been exceptional preparation in the Nursing and Midwifery Directorate supported by Shane Crowe and his team.

We are commencing a planned and proactive implementation of Western Health’s nursing workforce surge strategy with an initial small scale ICU expansion. As part of the first phase of this strategy, we are asking ICU trained nurses who are currently employed in indirect care roles, to join the ICU roster for the next four weeks across both sites. This action will allow these nurses to familiarise themselves with the ICU environment in a planned manner, and then be ready to support the opening of additional ICU beds if this becomes needed, to ensure we can continue to provide Best Care.

An additional element of the first phase is that we will commence allocating ‘surge nurses’ to wards as additional staff. They will be ‘buddied’ with a ward nurse to advise them of workflows and care expectations in a planned manner. We are aiming to have one allocated each shift and this is commencing today.

Large volumes of new equipment have continued to arrive at both Sunshine and Footscray Hospitals as part of our surge preparation. I would like to acknowledge the tireless work of our Biomedical Engineering, Supplies and Logistic teams who have put in many hours organising the delivery and setting up the equipment.

Western Health continues to feature in a range of positive media coverage relating to COVID-19. Earlier this week, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age published a story which included an interview with A/Prof Craig French, our Head of Intensive Care and showed one of our own inventions (with the University of Melbourne) with one of our senior ICU nurses, Laloma. Click on the links below to read the full article.

I am hearing encouraging reports that staff are taking a great deal more care with physical distancing when taking breaks and using their PPE at all appropriate times, understanding the risks involved once that PPE is not being worn, including when arriving to and leaving work. Thank you – this is a very important part of protecting yourself and your colleagues.

Thank especially to Natasha Toohey, who covered my role whilst I was on leave, for doing an unbelievable job and to you and every staff member for playing your part to the fullest in providing Best Care to our communities during these difficult times.