First look at Australia’s first purpose-built Biocontainment Centre at Westmead Hospital in Westmead Health Precinct

(Pictured: Epishuttle by Epiguard)

Australia’s first purpose-built Biocontainment Centre at Western Sydney’s Westmead Health Precinct has been unveiled.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the NSW Biocontainment Centre is highly specialised and was built to treat and safely isolate patients with rare highly infectious diseases, known as high consequence infectious diseases. 

High consequence infectious diseases are a range of acute infectious diseases with high case-fatality rates or special significance such as Ebola or MERS.  

While other prevalent infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and influenza are important, they are not included in the range of diseases managed at this unit. 

Minister Park said the purpose-built biocontainment centre at the Westmead Health Precinct clearly demonstrates how important it is for NSW to be capable of keeping people safe and providing the best care possible.  

“The centre is equipped with two specialised quarantine class and four negative pressure beds and helps us effectively respond to future pandemics and provide high level care to both adult and paediatric patients,” Mr Park said. 

“The community can be assured that, with this facility, NSW is ready to act and keep the community safe. 

“I am really pleased to see clinicians from both Westmead Hospital and the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network embracing this model of care, which is the first of its kind in Australia.” 

The state-of-the-art facility includes a critical lift to transport contagious patients directly from the Westmead Hospital helipad or an ambulance straight to the biocontainment centre.  

It will also use three steam steriliser autoclaves to process contaminated waste and has its own sewage treatment plant to treat contaminated patient waste.  

The floor of the centre has also been purpose-designed in different colours to identify which areas are ‘clean’ or ‘contaminated’ for additional safety. 

Member for Parramatta Donna Davis said the Westmead Health Precinct is home to some of the state’s most talented clinicians.  

“We have some of the best and brightest working here in the Westmead Health Precinct,” Ms Davis said.  

“It makes sense this facility is based here, where our highly trained clinicians stand ready to manage any cases of these highly contagious diseases.” 

Specialist medical, nursing, pharmacy, laboratory, and allied health staff trained to manage patients through strict infection prevention and control practices are available to the unit when required.  

WSLHD’s Acting Chief Executive Rebecca Nogajski said the centre plays many roles, operating as the state-wide referral and outreach facility for patients with suspected or confirmed HCID, as well as the education and training hub for preparedness and safe practice in managing these diseases. 

“This centre is self-contained, able to provide high-level emergency care, as well as access to specialist therapies such as phage therapy,” Dr Nogajski said. 

“The Centre stocks rarely used antibiotics, antivirals, antitoxins, vaccines and other key therapeutics. 

It also offers expert infectious diseases advice, including referral to relevant diagnostic testing and locations of testing, links with NSW Health Pathology and management able to be utilised as a 24/7 service in the early phases of the response.”  

Dr Nogajski

Cathryn Cox PSM, Chief Executive of Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, said the centre’s specialist staff are highly trained in managing patients. 

“We look forward to collaborating with all our colleagues across the Precinct, and NSW, to deliver a coordinated, specialised response through this centre of expertise, with a focus on containment and high-quality care of patients and their families.” Ms Cox said. 

The centre is a shared facility of Westmead Hospital, part of Western Sydney Local Health District and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network supporting the whole state in this specialised service. 

The Westmead Health Precinct is one of the largest health, education, research and innovation precincts in Australia and is a key provider of jobs for the greater Parramatta and Western Sydney region.  

More than $3 billion has been committed by Government and our precinct partners to upgrade and expand the Precinct’s health services, education, research and innovation facilities over the coming years.