The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for a long-awaited revamp of Hamilton Hospital’s Emergency and Intensive Care departments, says Western District Health Service (WDHS) Board Chair, Darren Barber.
Mr Barber says he wants the Victorian Government to consider a much-needed $29 million upgrade of the Hospital’s Emergency, ICU and Radiology areas, as part of the infrastructure projects announced to spearhead Victoria’s economic recovery in the coming months.
“Our nursing and medical staff have been caring for patients in inadequate facilities for years now, and it’s absolutely critical that we shift this project off the desk and get it ticked off.
We have been advocating for this redevelopment since the Hospital Masterplan was unveiled in 2012. Since then, there have been numerous studies and business cases submitted to advance the project, with little real progress.
One of our Emergency Department (ED) treatment spaces is in a corridor. Staff can’t be expected to care for people under these circumstances and the local community deserves better,” Mr Barber said.
Chief Executive, Rohan Fitzgerald says COVID-19 has further highlighted the difficulties posed by ageing infrastructure, cramped conditions and buildings that are no longer ‘fit-for purpose’.
“Our staff have done an incredible job, but they have faced numerous challenges during the pandemic, relating to the layout, age and state of our hospital buildings.
Managing the isolation of COVID-19 suspected patients has required significant workarounds and effort. I can’t emphasise enough, how much planning has gone into ensuring that we can manage patients safely in this environment. The limited space means that it is difficult for both staff and patients to social distance, it’s a real challenge,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
An assessment report conducted to inform the Health Service Masterplan in 2012 found that a number of buildings including ED, ICU and Radiology were cramped, in poor condition and no longer fit for purpose.
To further reinforce the need for the redevelopment, between 2016 and 2019 Emergency admissions increased by 12%, with staff also caring for significantly more complex cases.
“Demand for our services has increased greatly in recent years, and we are dealing with many more patients with complex needs. In 2016/17 urgent category 1 and 2 cases were 10% of presentations, in 2018/19 this had jumped to 15%.
The number of staff working in ED has also increased substantially to meet the demand. In 2017 we had one nurse on each shift and now we have three. To say it gets congested is an understatement, and our nursing and medical staff do an amazing job to make it all work.
Similarly, our ICU has served the community well for many years, but space limitations now mean that it is bursting at the seams.
We also know that to attract and retain high calibre medical professionals, we need to have state of the art diagnostic equipment. This is why our radiology department, built in the 1940’s is also urgently in need of a makeover. Critically, the new radiology area would include an MRI machine, currently not available in the Southern Grampians,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
With project costs expected to be around $29 million, Mr Fitzgerald says he hopes that both State and Federal governments get behind the redevelopment.
“Given the substantial economic, health and community benefits the project will deliver for the region, we would welcome support from both the State and Federal governments.
We just can’t continue to treat Emergency patients in a corridor, it’s just not good enough,” Mr Fitzgerald said.