BASS Coast Health has been notified that their “Short Stay Unit”, four beds opposite the Wonthaggi Hospital’s Emergency Department, has been declared a Tier 2 Exposure site after a contractor, transferring a patient from the facility last Monday, subsequently tested positive.
However, thanks to the fact that the contractor was using full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and all 16 hospital staff who may have accessed the area at the time, between 7.40pm and 8.14pm on Monday night, Monday August 30 were also wearing full PPE, were fully vaccinated, and have since tested negative; risks associated with the incident have been greatly reduced.
There were no patients or members of the community exposed, and there was no risk posed to any other parts of the hospital.
BCH CEO Jan Child said the hospital was first notified of the exposure to a patient transport contractor at around 4pm on Thursday night, September 2, triggering an immediate operation to contact those who may have been exposed, to isolate 15 staff members and to commence the process of testing.
“Most of those tests were completed last night and came back negative. The remainder were completed this morning,” Ms Child said.
“All of our staff were wearing appropriate PPE and the N95 masks and most were wearing goggles. Those that weren’t will be tested on days 4 and 12 just to be sure.
“But it’s an example of what can be achieved when you do the right thing. This could have become a Tier 1 site and all the procedures that go with it, but everything that could be done has been done.
“But it’s an example of how this thing will come at us and as a health service we have to be ready and so does the community.
“If you think you can go around and see your friends and family, or maybe go around and have a few beers with your mate in the shed… that’s how this thing got started again in Melbourne.
“We’ve all got to do the right thing, health services and everyone in the community.
“We’ve got a precious couple of weeks to get vaccinated and re-double our best practice; don’t go to crowds, wash your hands and sanitise, and get vaccinated.
“In about two weeks time, we’re not going to have as much Pfizer as we’d like but there’s plenty of AstraZeneca, and given the risks associated with getting this Delta strain, any risk associated with getting AZ pales into insignificance compared to getting COVID.
“We don’t know how much, or if we’ll get any, of the UK Pfizer that’s coming.”
Ms Child said the patient transport contractor was screened on arrival the the hospital and was asymptomatic and subsequently tested positive.
“He may have been infectious when he was here but not highly and together with everyone being in full protective equipment, the risks were greatly reduced.”
Ms Child said the health service exhaustively reviewed who may have been in the area during the 35 minutes the contractor was in the hospital and feel it has been completely contained.
Ms Child said that some of the staff who were furloughed as a result of the incident had since returned to their work at BCH.
“We’ve got to realise, that as the numbers go up, incidents of this kind will become more frequent. We’ve got to acknowledge now, given what’s happening in Melbourne and elsewhere, that there are positive cases out there now and this is an example of how they can walk into our service, walk in anywhere.
“People will be carrying the virus around,” she said.
“We’re not immune here here. Everyone needs to know Delta is coming and will come in here.
“We’ve got to take the opportunity we have now to go out and get vaccinated. Tell your friends, tell your family members they need to get vaccinated.”
Ms Child said the health service here, like others across the state, had re-commenced planning for the major outbreak that was potentially coming this way, more likely now than it was when the pandemic was first notified by the WHO in March 2020.
Statement by Bass Coast Health
Bass Coast Health issued the following official statement at 5.57pm on Friday, September 3:
Community not at risk after Wonthaggi Hospital Short Stay Unit identified as a Tier 2 exposure site
The Short Stay Unit at Wonthaggi Hospital was identified as a Tier 2 COVID exposure site on Monday, 30 August from 7.40pm to 8.14pm.
This exposure was due to a positive COVID test from a contractor attending to facilitate a patient transport. The contractor was appropriately screened and was asymptomatic at the time. The patient who was transported was made aware of their exposure and is safe and isolating.
“There is no risk to the local community, or to any other patients, or to any other workers or community members,” Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child reassured.
“However this incident has highlighted that Delta is a real danger to our community and an outbreak could happen so easily. That’s why it’s vital that the community gets vaccinated against COVID-19 and follows the Public Health directives of wearing a face mask, physically distancing, sanitising your hands and avoiding crowds.”
Sixteen staff members who were potentially exposed during that time were quickly identified and all undertook a COVID test and isolated. All results have now been confirmed as negative.
Ms Child said staff contacted were well and asymptomatic, and all had been vaccinated. Staff were wearing the appropriate PPE and the training and protocols they have been living for the past months in their day to day work, paid off and kept everyone safe.
“This incident has reinforced just how important it is that we all follow the rules and all be vaccinated against COVID,” she said.
“The Gippsland Regional Public Health Unit has confirmed the risk to these workers and the patient is low as the contractor was wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the time, and all staff were wearing N95s masks and most staff were wearing full level 3 PPE.”
As per usual policy at BCH, staff will continue to get tested for COVID if they experience any symptoms.
“I want to commend the BCH team and Gippsland Region Public Health Unit for the very rapid response to the exposure,” Ms Child said.
“This is a really timely reminder that COVID can make its way anywhere; no areas in the State are immune, because people can be asymptomatic for several days. All of us must play a part in reducing the spread by being vaccinated, following the directives, and getting tested with any symptoms.”