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An exceptional response to the asthma emergency

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An exceptional response to the asthma emergency

​​Following Monday evening's state-wide asthma emergency, Western Health Executive Director Operations, Russell Harrision has this message about how Western Health responded to treat more than 1260 patients within the 48 hour period on Monday and Tuesday (21 and 22 November 2016). 

"As the asthma emergency surge was occurring on Monday 21 November and into Tuesday, Western Health's emergency departments were operating under an Incident Command Team structure replicating the Code command system, coordinating and delivering an extraordinary response," Executive Director Operations, Russell Harrison said.

"Additional doctors and nurses were marshalled to respond to the vast increase in emergency presentations. Three to four senior emergency consultants were on duty at each of the emergency departments, at Footscray and Sunshine.

"The need was at the front door. That's where the patients were and that's where we marshalled our resources.

"Based on discussions with key clinicians, the Incident Command Team made a decision that the primary focus had to be on caring for these patients in the emergency departments and areas very close by.

"They needed urgent attention in an area where there was the expertise and facilities to respond and most, once stabilised, were able to be safely discharged rather than needing admission.

"The biggest challenge facing Western Health in managing the patient numbers was finding appropriate space within the emergency department setting, in close range to the necessary backup equipment and where the maximum monitoring was possible.  

"Throughout the evening and overnight, we were in constant contact with the state health command and with Ambulance Victoria, who provided a designated group manager to support us on site at Sunshine Hospital ED. They also helped liaise on behalf of Footscray Hospital ED. This resource helped coordinate the flow and discharge of patients off multiple ambulances simultaneously, reaching a peak with 18 ambulances on site at Sunshine and a significant number at Footscray at around 11.15pm.

"While we always look at how to improve, the response by our hospital teams was exceptional and we commend every staff member, who went well above and beyond the call of duty to provide care in a difficult time.

"Our response was also supported through cooperation with the state health command and Ambulance Victoria and through the wonderful response of the patients we treated, who agreed to share treatment areas and be managed wherever this was practical, as they could​​ see these were exceptional circumstances."

Across Monday and Tuesday (21 and 22 November), Western Health's emergency departments treated more than 1260 patients.