Fault with portable negative pressure room system resolved after Geraldton COVID breach

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Dr Helen Van Gessel, Principal Health Officer, WA Country Health Service.
Camera IconDr Helen Van Gessel, Principal Health Officer, WA Country Health Service. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

It is hoped upgrades to Geraldton’s emergency department will prevent a repeat of the July COVID protocol breach which put more than 50 people at risk of virus exposure.

The breach occurred when a crew member of the MV Emerald Indah was taken to Geraldton hospital with COVID-19 symptoms.

Despite being flagged as a suspected case, the man remained in the hospital’s emergency department for three hours before he was transferred to the hospital’s negative pressure room.

The State Government revealed a portable anteroom which arrived at Geraldton Health Campus shortly before the incident could not be deployed due to “design constraints in the emergency department”.

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Following a post-incident review, the hospital received a new portable negative pressure system designed specifically for use in the ED.

WA Country Health Service principal health officer Dr Helen Van Gessel likened the Rediroom system to a “pop-up tent” which “expands over the patient” to prevent virus transmission.

“We can get it in place straight away whereas the installation of more negative chamber rooms would require months and months of planning,” she said.

The hospital’s five existing negative pressure rooms on the wards have been tested and maintenance on the campus’ air-conditioning system is also planned.

Dr Van Gessel said Geraldton was the first WACHS site to receive the Rediroom technology and staff had worked hard to familiarise themselves with the new system and revised COVID protocols.

“I went up to Geraldton last month and we tested the revised protocols with a practice patient and staff were practising lift transfers,” she said.

Dr Van Gessel said she was confident Geraldton was in a “good position” to manage potential COVID outbreaks in the future.

But she said there was a “sense of trepidation” as WA prepared to reopen its borders as the State had not had its healthcare industry “tested” by COVID as the Eastern States had.

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