WE ARE PREPARED: Our frontline hospital heroes battle COVID-19
THE roads are quiet outside the Lismore Base Hospital and very few pedestrians can be seen on the street.
Inside, an army of staff work tirelessly to deal with one of the greatest challenges the Australian medical system has seen in the last 100 years – coronavirus (COVID-19).
Thankfully, in Lismore the work is primarily focused on testing and preparedness.
Clinical nurse specialist, Jenny Gill, who has worked for 23 years in the emergency department, said she was involved in screening patients coming into the hospital and helping to ensure they were cared for in an appropriate place in the department.
“While we have had influenza outbreaks such as H1N1 (Swine Flu) in 2009, we haven’t had a virus such as this where the entire community could and is being affected in some way,” she said.
“So far, the main difficulty has been managing the anxiety of staff, patients and community, particularly in the early stages when we weren’t sure what our infection trajectory would look like.
“Now that we’ve had time to prepare for a significant surge, we are comfortable that we could provide this care for a large number of patients if needed.”
Acting nursing unit manager, Rose Turner, said as the hospital had become busier with COVID-19 patients, her ward had become the dedicated COVID-19 ward.
“Although I have never really faced anything like this, our ward was fairly well prepared as last year we were the dedicated influenza A-B ward,” she said.
“We were basically quarantined for a three-month period, which has given us a lot of experience with PPE and infection control.”
Visiting Medical Officer physician, Dr Brian Hughes, is the senior medical support/co-ordinator for the fever clinic and Hospital in the Home (HITH) for COVID-19 patients.
He said he was now in a specific role for infectious diseases, with responsibilities for screening populations for infectious diseases and managing the patients in HITH.
“The current pandemic feels in some respects a bit like 1983-1985 before and around the time of developing a test for HIV — the same but different,” he said.
“I was involved in the initial screening of the public for HIV and the first national strategy as a medical student.”