St Vincent's Lismore private hospital in Lismore.
St Vincent's Lismore private hospital in Lismore.

Private hospital joins forces with public sector

NO clinical or non-clinical staff have been stood down at St Vincent Hospital in Lismore.

The St Vincent's Private Hospital Lismore team is responding rapidly to COVID-19 developments, in accordance with instructions from the Australian Government and in co-operation with the Northern NSW Local Health District (LHD).

Chief executive officer Steve Brierley confirmed workers at the health precinct are ready to support their colleagues in the public sector.

"We are awaiting clear instructions from NSW Health regarding public patients being admitted to St Vincent's and the number of beds required," the executive said.

"St Vincent's is ready and willing to co-operate with our colleagues in the public health system in providing clinical care for the Northern Rivers."

Mr Brierley said his team is ready to mobilise resources.

"We can flexibly respond to this significant challenge, including the ability to admit large numbers of public patients to our hospital, who need urgent surgery and/or for general nursing care on our wards."

The CEO outlined the government's changes to elective surgery that come into effect this Wednesday, April 1.

"Every patient waiting for elective surgery is assessed by their treating medical professional as Category 1, 2 or 3 according to the following definitions:

• Category 1 conditions need treatment within 30 days and have the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point where the patient's situation may become an emergency.

• Category 2 conditions need treatment within 90 days. Their condition causes pain, dysfunction or disability, but are unlikely to deteriorate quickly and unlikely to become an emergency.

• Category 3 conditions need treatment at some point in the next year.

"Only Category 1 and some exceptional Category 2 surgery will continue under the new rules until further notice," Mr Brierley announced.

In response to the suspension of some elective surgeries, Mr Brierley said staff on contracted hours may be asked to take leave or be redeployed to other parts of the campus, but overall St Vincent's was well placed to adapt to the rapidly-evolving situation.

"NSW Health are acutely aware of the need to have a viable private health sector to assist during the crisis and also once it is over. And St Vincent's has responded by putting systems in place to alleviate pressure on our public health system and to provide additional support for our community and this time" he said.

St Vincent's has worked in close co-operation with the Northern NSW Local Health District (LHD) throughout the crisis, through:

• Weekly teleconferences with the NSW Ministry of Health and the Northern NSW LHD.

• Plans to accept and be paid for public patients, with beds ready and available should they be required under the COVID-19 National Partnership Agreement.

To protect patients and staff due to the COVID-19 national health emergency St Vincent's Lismore has implemented a number of procedural and service modifications.

All patients are now screened prior to admission (with an assessment unit now operational for those admitted directly from other facilities or the community).

Also, all visitors to the hospital and the tenants of the Specialist Medical Suites in Dalley Street are screened before entering.

Face-to-face meetings have also been replaced by teleconference wherever possible, and social distancing practices have been strictly implemented.

St Joseph's Nursing Home, on the same campus as the private hospital, was placed into lockdown on March 25 to protect vulnerable residents.

Mr Brierley paid tribute to the St Vincent's workforce.

"I am very proud of our staff, who although naturally concerned themselves, have remained committed to the care of our patients and residents with incredible professionalism and commitment. It's a privilege to work with such people."