How has Sydney Adventist Hospital faced the enormous challenges of the coronavirus? Adventist HealthCare (ACHL) CEO Brett Goods explains:
Firstly I wanted to express to the Adventist community how much Adventist HealthCare (the San Hospital Wahroonga and San Day Surgery Hornsby) appreciates your support during the challenges of COVID-19. Many of you have sent messages of encouragement and prayers, and it means a lot to our staff, doctors, patients, volunteers and the leadership team.
As it is for all healthcare facilities worldwide, COVID-19 is one of the greatest challenges Adventist HealthCare has faced in many decades. We are encouraged and reassured as we see how God has blessed the San since it opened in 1903, bringing the organisation through two world wars, the Spanish Flu global pandemic a century ago and the Great Depression. We see God powerfully at work still—on a daily basis—through His guidance and faithful provision.
For months now we have been working with doctors, staff, AHCL Board, and the various health and government bodies at local, state and federal level, planning for the critical role we’re called on to play as the number of COVID-19 cases increases and more people need our care.
The San has a unique mission and is a crucial part of its local community and New South Wales’ healthcare more broadly. Thankfully we are home to many world-best expert clinicians; compassionate, calm, committed staff; and a 500-strong force of loyal volunteers. Our people are used to dealing with serious infection risks and life-threatening situations, and they continue to deliver excellent care while simultaneously adjusting to the everyday changes COVID-19 brings to their own lives and families. For that I sincerely thank them, and I am enormously proud of our people.
"We have been humbled and buoyed by the support of our community who have sent cards, emails, social media posts, hampers of food and hot cross buns."
On March 24, after rigorous consultation, AHCL leadership made the difficult decision to cease all non-urgent elective surgery at both the San Wahroonga and San Day Surgery Hornsby. This was done in consideration of the safety and wellbeing of our patients and our workforce, and for the necessary preservation of stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE). Only Category 1 cases (urgent/life-threatening) continue to be operated on at the San.
On March 25, the Federal Government’s National Cabinet announced the temporary suspension of all non-urgent elective surgery in both public and private hospitals Australia wide—until further notice—to “preserve resources including protective equipment to help prepare public and private health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak”.
The cancellation of elective surgery has an impact on 27 operating theatres and procedural rooms at the San, and two theatres at San Day Surgery Hornsby. As the operating theatres are the engine room of the hospital, this also has a substantial impact on AHCL’s revenue. We continue to provide all our medical services, emergency/Category 1 procedures, maternity services, integrated cancer centre, coronary care and intensive care. Our very busy Emergency Care department continues to be an important facility where the public seek treatment.
We are retaining our workforce at AHCL in preparation for the likely increase in COVID-19 admissions. Adventist HealthCare, like all private hospital operators, is entering into an agreement with the NSW State Government/Health Department to secure a viability guarantee. In return for this guarantee, AHCL will retain all staff to be able to make available our facilities in a ready state to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as required in partnership with NSW Health. We are utilising current spare capacity to plan, prepare and train our frontline staff.
At AHCL we have daily updates with leadership and key clinicians, and weekly emergency planning sessions regarding patient admission and treatment, infectious disease prevention, workforce needs, risk assessment, staff training, communication, supplies and resources. Everything we do is focused on the health, safety and wellbeing of our patients and all our staff and doctors who care for them.
As you are no doubt aware from the daily news, there is a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE)—including masks, gowns, gloves, protective eyewear and hand sanitiser. Our hardworking personnel in stores have been working overtime—contacting local and global suppliers and government bodies—to source adequate supplies of PPE to keep our staff safe. I have to share one example of how we’ve been blessed. The San’s various prayer groups have made PPE a focus of prayer. Last Tuesday night during one prayer group, I received an email notifying us that the hospital had been granted 20,000 masks from government stores. “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24 NIV).
We are thankful for the expertise and wisdom of our Medical Advisory Committee who represent our world-class doctors, and many of our hospital teams who are on the front foot identifying the important issues, providing expertise, making difficult decisions hour by hour, day by day.
AHCL has taken many proactive measures to safeguard patients and staff, including our ‘one-visitor-only’ policy. This is understandably hard on family and friends but our community has been incredibly understanding. We have limited the number of access points to the hospital, and established mandatory screening and temperature testing of all visitors and staff who enter the hospital.
To date we have cared for six COVID-19-positive patients at the San. We have rigorous infection-prevention processes and a dedicated isolation ward. Staff have also been provided with additional COVID-related training, as well as access to counselling support through employee assistance programs and spiritual care services.
We have been humbled and buoyed by the support of our community who have sent cards, emails, social media posts, hampers of food and hot cross buns—all demonstrating their gratitude for the work being done by our teams, and offering understanding, support and inspiration. We are truly grateful and our staff are drawing strength from them all.
Even while we’re dealing with the rapidly changing healthcare landscape that COVID-19 brings, we continue to uphold our mission of “Christianity in Action”, and work on our strategic vision for AHCL, which is “To be to a thriving faith-based provider of world class care, inspiring hope and wellbeing.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with our entire community as you also face the challenges of COVID-19. May the Lord bless you and keep you.