Our hospitals are ready to tackle winter

Westmead staff Chris Margo, Ashley Baker, Courtney McDonald and Robbie Cruceanu are prepared for the flu season.

Hospitals across Western Sydney have deployed more frontline staff and will set up dedicated winter beds to prepare for the flu season.

Western Sydney Local Health District executive director operations, Robynne Cooke, said Westmead Hospital and Blacktown Hospital will undertake a phased opening of additional beds to care for an expected increase in people presenting with respiratory problems.

“The winter months are a busy time for any hospital so we have added extra staff to assist with the demand and to cover any of our workers who may fall ill over the period,” Ms Cooke said.

To further ensure staff keep on top of patient demand, Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals have started using a dashboard which helps monitor emergency presentation volume and emergency performance.

This new measure allows staff to monitor patterns of patient admissions so they can predict when they may need to open additional beds to help avoid delays.

Ms Cooke reminded the community to visit their GP for treatment of less serious illnesses to ensure emergency departments are freed-up for emergencies.

The Western Sydney Local Health District experienced a significant rise in demand in the 2017 winter period. From July to September alone, nearly 50,000 people presented to emergency departments across the District, an increase of 4,605 or over 10 per cent on the previous year.

The District has been working with the Primary Health Network and Residential Aged Care Facilities to help them prepare and educate staff and patients about preventative measures to stay healthy during winter.

The NSW Government is spending a record $22.75 million on state-wide immunisation programs in 2017-18. This includes $3.5 million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age and a $1.75 million immunisation and influenza prevention campaign.

WSLHD has strongly encouraged its own staff to get their flu shots and so far more than 7,500 WSLHD staff have been vaccinated.

Annual vaccination is the best protection against the flu, but the following steps also help prevent the spread of influenza:

o   Cough and sneeze into your elbow

o   Clean your hands

o   Stay home when sick.