Chief Executive Jo Whitehead reflects on our plans to prepare for COVID-19
Two months Mackay HHS faced the very real problem of a COVID-19 outbreak – think New York and the UK and the thousands of lives lost. Our social distancing measures and restrictions had only been implemented and we didn’t know how helpful they would be.
We had to response quickly and immediately with plans on how to handle a pandemic in Mackay for everyone, not just maternity consumers and not just Birth Centre clients.
When we make decisions, we turn to guidelines and evidence, not emotion. It’s about balancing the pains and gains for everyone affected by our decisions.
The last thing I want to happen is to have to shut an entire service down because we have had an infection prevention breach or have half of our midwives off sick or in isolation. We have seen that happen in Tasmania and in Rocky and I don’t want that to happen here.
It’s about the best decision you can make with the resources and knowledge you have at the time and balancing the needs of everyone.
We’re learning more about this virus and how it is transmitted and how we can make the safest decisions -. what we know today might change tomorrow, it’s not for nothing is it called a novel virus, there is so much to learn.
While relaxed social restrictions might make some happy they make us nervous because we still don’t know what might happen next.
The best approach to manage a pandemic is to separate infected people from well people. This is why we ask people to go into quarantine and home isolation, so that they don’t spread the infection.
This is why we have created separate areas in emergency departments for testing people with symptoms. In our main hospital patients are cared for in isolation negative pressure rooms to avoid making others unwell.
If a patient is a suspected COVID-19 patient, we must treat them as if they have COVID-19 until we get confirmation that they have not, and of course, we must be cautious as the impact of an outbreak is so very significant.
When it comes to maternity consumers, we naturally follow the same approach – separate the potentially or confirmed unwell mothers-to-be from other well women, babies, their support people and healthcare workers.
Why the Birth Centre?
The decision to initially reserve the Birth Centre for assessment and birthing of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 women was made because it’s a separate building with its own air conditioning system – this is important to avoid circulating the virus through the Labour and Maternity wards which are on a shared system.
Using the Birth Centre keeps other women, babies, visitors and healthcare workers safe.
The decision to initially reserve the Birth Centre for assessment and birthing of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 women was made because it’s a separate building with its own air conditioning system – this is important to avoid circulating the virus through the Labour and Maternity wards which are on a shared system. Using the Birth Centre keeps other women, babies, visitors and healthcare workers safe.
The Birth Centre also has ante-room to put on and take off all the gloves, gowns and masks that staff need to wear to keep everyone safe which meets infection prevention requirements – in other words staff can put on and take off their infected PPE in a confined area that is easily cleaned rather than in a narrow Labour Ward corridor shared by many people.
Other hospitals have not had to use their Birth Centre for COVID-19 because their women’s health services are in newer facilities with a negative pressure room that can be used for this purpose.
What happens next?
We have set a date of 27 May for birthing and assessment to resume in the centre. We will keep an eye on COVID-19 numbers over the coming months and take it from there.
That is why our plans continue to be to relocated Birth Centre clients to Labour Ward should we need to use the Birth Centre for a COVID-19 suspected or confirmed birth.
We will continue to look at all birthing options and will review our decisions as new information about COVID-19 is received. Remember it’s a new virus and we are all learning!
I have met with the Friends of the Birth Centre and have we will keep meeting, we agreed to let’s make it work together – for everyone!
Training for a COVID-19 birth
Our midwives are continuing their training on best practice to support a woman with suspected of confirmed COVID-19 to birth. We have 111 midwives to train and are doing this training in the Birth Centre as it remains our designated location for these assessments and birth to occur.
Training in a simulation environment allows midwives to practice their skills in real time. They must use different PPE than they are used to, and this all requires practice to don and doff it safely.