These are difficult times. It brings out the best, and the worst, in many of us.
It is a time of confusion, scare-mongering, panic buying, false information, but also helping neighbours,
keeping family close, showing supportive friendships online, long distance family nurturing.
The only way through this is to use our common sense, do what we are advised by those we trust who know what they’re talking about and have no vested interest involved.
We particularly should be listening to the medical profession. It’s a pity many politicians haven’t been doing so.
But there is now danger in apathy, “c’est la vie”, the great Aussie “she’ll be right mate” insouciance. Those who assume, if worse comes to worse we have the good old Manning Base Hospital.
Sorry folks, we need to pull our finger out and sit up. Preparation is everything. How prepared is our local medical army?
This is the calm before the storm. Look overseas and see that preparation beforehand is key to survival. Otherwise the tidal wave surges over you, be it Italy, Spain, the USA.
We Have A Problem
At the time of writing there is a problem, I hope as you read this it has been rectified, but apparently 3 months supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) needed by our medical warriors (the staff) has “disappeared” from Manning Hospital.
It was signed out and nobody knows where it’s gone. Everyone is ducking for cover. Where would it go? Putting all the conspiracy theories aside it puts us behind the 8 ball. It’s serious high quality gear desperately needed.
How are we going to cope if, in the next few weeks, we get a surge of cases as has happened around the world? Don’t assume all is under control.
In Taree one gets a sense of the Manning Hospital starting to resemble the Marie Celeste drifting over the horizon; an abandoned ghost ship.
It’s certainly been leaking. Anxious and angry staff, forbidden to speak out or lose their job, have been contacting the media, desperately worried that the ship will sink.
Politics, personal animosity and money don’t mix well with medical administrative issues, because who suffers? We, the patients do.
For several years I have written about the poor conditions, despite dedicated staff, at Manning Hospital. The main issue being the fact it is under the thumb of Hunter New England Health, ruled by the Director Michael DiRienzo with whom a lot of local medicos are at war over funding, amenities, rules and regulations that, to their mind, benefit John Hunter Hospital at great cost to our Mid Coast community.
And right now is not the time to have our Director of Emergency Services resign (after only 6 months) due to lack of facilities and other requests promised but which have not eventuated. (We tried to reach him for comment but there has been no response from the hospital.)
The turnover of staff is indicative of their frustration. Hiring expensive part time or temporary specialists like anaesthetists, Intensivists from the other side of the country, now isn’t an option as they are needed elsewhere and prefer to work where they have facilities, staff and backup.
What About Us ?
At this moment, John Hunter Hospital has 60 state of the art ventilators, equipped ICU units and staff, anaesthetists and trained ICU nurses. Port Macquarie hospital has 25 ventilators, an ICU staffed with trained nurses and appropriate staff. Anaesthetists are being retrained and called on to support them.
Manning Hospital has 10 adequate ventilators, but hopes to get eight more. But 10 is all we can hope for at the moment.
The Manning Hospital has relied on external staff and locums who now aren’t available. There are anaesthetists there who will be available to help in intensives care. But then they need support staff as well as nurses and good equipment.
Bear in mind the electorate of Lyne has the oldest demographic in the country. We are a population of around 90 thousand including a significant indigenous community.
So how would we cope locally with a big surge of CoronaVirus patients 24/7 with 10 ventilators? Is this a realistic preparation? Not just for the patient, but what if one of the intensive care staff got the virus or was unwell? That would be a disaster, as it would if the nursing staff got ill. How can we ask doctors and nurses to work with seriously infected patients with no protection?
Unfortunately those in the know figure if push comes to shove John Hunter will pull up the drawbridge saying they can’t accept any patients from our area and Port Macquarie would probably do the same. They both have state of the art protective equipment where as we don’t.
Lack of preparedness at the hospital is frightening. I’m told there is one young doctor at the hospital who is trying to co-ordinate everything against the odds, though fortunately the anaesthetic unit has been upgraded in last couple of months. But it’s an army without weapons at this stage.
Medicine is a calling. Most doctors truly care about their patients. But they need the backup of dedicated healthcare workers, nurses, laboratory people, cleaners, delivery drivers, aged care workers in affiliated health professions. How can they continue when under appreciated and paid so little?
We need to convince our hospital that if they stand up, show some leadership and fight for us, then we, the community, will back them.
If Manning Hospital does all its preparation properly, at least we have a chance of coping with what comes our way. We’re in the eye of the storm if you look at overseas experience.
If our hospital stands up, speak out and prepares to fight to protect us, we’ll back them. This a war, but one we must win.
We’re on your side Manning Hospital. Please. Trust us.
After all. It’s all our lives at stake.
PS You might want to listen to Radio National “Background Briefing” broadcast April 5
What does it take to prepare for a pandemic?
Many hospitals around the world are already overwhelmed by patients infected with COVID19.Australian
Australian doctors and nurses are bracing for something most of them have never faced before.
In our country hospitals, resources are already stretched: beds are in short supply and there’s a greater proportion of older people.
Preparation will in many cases be the difference between life and death.
ABC National Regional Reporter Jess Davis takes us inside the Wimmera Base Hospital in Horsham, Victoria, as the team tries to prepare for the unimaginable.