‘Reborn’ hospital cares for elderly COVID patients


The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the healthcare industry to make some quick decisions, nowhere more so than at Epping Private Hospital in Melbourne.

The hospital had been closed but with the pandemic in full swing, Healthecare, working closely with the Victorian Government, was asked to reopen the facility.

Epping Private Hospital CEO Dean Palmby said the reopening was completed in just two weeks.

“We had a fortnight to reopen the hospital, find staff and re-equip the building with beds and equipment.

“It was a whirlwind effort and we were all working crazy hours, but it came together,” he said.

The staff at Epping took on the job of caring for elderly patients with COVID, who had to leave their residential aged care facilities.

“We were asked to take aged care patients with COVID and we had those patients with us right up until December last year,” Mr Palmby said.

“What we’re really proud of is that during this time, we had zero infections from staff and zero patient-to-patient COVID transfer. I’m exceptionally proud of all the team here, everyone has worked well together.”

The hospital now has 24 single-bed rooms, each with an ensuite, providing a contemporary environment that meets stringent requirements required to provide high-quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Palmby said the team at Epping were “super diligent” about their COVID processes, including use of personal protection equipment (PPE) and the way the hospital was set up.

“We made sure the air-conditioning in each room and corridor was separate,” he said.

“It was all properly ducted and segmented, so there would be no transfer of the virus through the air.”

The hospital also used Nirovision detection and temperature software, which recorded staff entering and exiting the building and their temperature. Any changes in temperature were reported in real time and the software was also used for contact tracing.

Patients used iPads to watch Netflix or other streaming services, and also to communicate with their families.

Executive manager Kieron Martin said it was vital each patient was treated as an individual.

“We are absolutely committed to do all that we can to support the Melbourne and wider Victorian community during the pandemic.

“Epping Private Hospital has been reborn with a new team, new furniture and equipment, and a new cohort of patients,” he said.

According to Mr Palmby, one positive to come from the pandemic has been the close working relationship between the private and public sectors.

“I think it’s been an eye-opener for the public and private health industries, we’ve all worked really well together,” he said.

“We are still taking public patients to support the public system and are in contact with the Royal Melbourne Hospital on a daily basis, to plan new patient admissions.

“We’ll continue to support DHHS and the public system until the end of June at this stage, we’ll see what happens after that. Of course, we’re on standby for any aged care COVID cases that may occur due to another outbreak.

“This has been – hopefully – a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

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Read more: Private hospitals join the fight against COVID-19


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