GV Health gets testing kits, prepares for COVID-19 outbreak

By Madi Chwasta

Goulburn Valley Health has purchased additional pathology equipment that could diagnose a coronavirus case on-site within a day, as current testing resources run short, in preparation for a COVID-19 outbreak in the Greater Shepparton region.

Goulburn Valley Health chief executive officer Matt Sharp said at a press conference yesterday morning these test kits were being ‘'fast-tracked” and should be in use within the coming one to two weeks to supplement current resources.

“We will have the ability to do onsite testing in the coming weeks,” he said.

“That additional pathology equipment will allow us to have a quicker turnaround time than what currently is the case for testing.

“At the moment, we do have enough equipment in terms of testing and the like for people who require swabs or additional tests for COVID-19.”

Mr Sharp said the hospital was already experiencing some pressure in supplying personal protective equipment to staff.

He said the hospital had currently been applying criteria about who would be screened and tested for COVID-19, based on overseas travel, whether the patient had been in contact with a case, and their clinical presentation.

The hospital has also imposed restrictions for visitors coming into the hospital, with all non-essential visits banned, with some allowances for visitors of children under 18, and palliative care patients, among others.

An incident management team has been meeting each day, and a group of people was ‘'working around the clock” to prepare for the ‘'likely influx” of patients.

To prepare for this expected influx, Mr Sharp said finding a workforce was currently a ‘'significant issue'’, and management had been ascertaining staff availability, especially in the wake of school closures.

He said they were also in the process of contacting other employers in the Greater Shepparton region who had staff with health qualifications who might not be working, and in the next few days would contact recently retired or similar staff who still had a clinical registration.

In addition, he said they would reduce services in some areas of the hospital and redirect them to high priority areas, ‘'if the need arises''.

Mr Sharp said he was discussing with the Victorian Government and the building contractor for Stage 1 of GV Health's Graham St site whether any ‘'additional capacity” could be brought forward.

“Those discussions are ongoing,” he said.

He said the screening station outside of GV Health was open from 10 am to 6 pm, and they would establish a ‘'fever clinic” for additional testing, as part of a Federal Government initiative.

He emphasised it was everyone’s responsibility to follow the advice of the Department of Health and Human Services.