Health agencies collaborate on COVID-19 response

Mildura’s public and private health agencies and providers have formed a unique collaborative partnership to share resources and knowledge to ensure the most effective local response possible to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resources of the Mildura Base Hospital, Sunraysia Community Health Services, the Murray Primary Health Network and Mildura Health Private Hospital will be combined to ensure health services are ready to effectively respond to COVID-19 as patient demand emerges in the Sunraysia region.

A hospital working group, chaired by Mildura Base Hospital Director of Intensive Care and Anaesthetics, Dr Alison Walker, has been working intensively since January to plan the response.

Dr Walker said the primary consideration was ensuring essential medical services continue through the pandemic.

“We have had extremely well-qualified local professionals working around the clock on this, and they have been doing so for more than two months,” Dr Walker said.

“The collaboration includes all of our local health providers and agencies and GPs including expert input ranging from an infectious disease specialist to logistics managers,” she said.

“The sole focus has been ensuring the health services within the community are ready for when we see COVID emerge in the district.”

Murray Primary Health Network executive Director Matt Jones said the impact of COVID-19 on the region is unknown.

“What we do know, though, is that the remoteness of Mildura presents some unique challenges that calls for a different response here,” Mr Jones said.

“It was imperative that the agencies here worked together to ensure the community is as safe as it can be through this unprecedented time. It’s been an incredible amount of work, but I am proud and impressed with how all of the agencies have come together,” he said.

Included in the planning are the establishment of a COVID-19 testing clinic, preparing for outpatient telehealth clinics and fine-tuning of protocols on how to treat COVID-19 and general patient populations in one hospital.

Sunraysia Community Health Services Chief Executive Officer Simone Heald said the group had been working with the DHHS on modelling to indicate what would be needed at each stage and at various levels of severity.

“Work included audits of our collective human resource capacity and the local supplies of consumables and other resources. We worked with GPs and external providers to look at all of the potential impacts and how we can best utilise and support them, and how they can contribute to the overall response,” Ms Heald said.

“There has been an incredible amount of work on the part of every one of the working group partners, and the community can feel very confident that we have developed a plan that will maximise the use of all of our available resources as demand emerges.”

Mildura Health Private Hospital Chief Executive Officer Marcus Guthrie said MHPH was pleased to be able to work in partnership with public sector agencies to ensure an appropriate response to the pandemic.

“It has been an intensive, long-term effort, but we were all focussed on the one goal, and that is, essentially, to build the capability and capacity of the health services by working on ways to share our resources,” Mr Guthrie said.

“This is an unprecedented collaborative effort, but these are exceptional challenges we are facing, and it’s an absolute credit to each of the agencies, the private providers in our community and the Department of Health and Human Services, that this response has been possible.”

Chief Executive Officer, Adam Stevenson is pleased with the efforts of hospital staff during this planning stage. “Our internal working group is already reviewing and making modifications to our processes, such as the introduction of restricting patient visitor numbers to address risks associated with COVID-19. We will strengthen our workforce capabilities and continue to increase communication across the hospital. In due course, we will also explore ways we can involve the support of community members”.

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