WDHB to host Ebola exercise

25 March 2015

April 1 will see Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) hosting a full-scale, multi-agency ebola exercise to ensure Whanganui is well prepared should the district have an ebola incident.
WDHB emergency management coordinator Simon Ward says while the WDHB is not one of the main hospitals expected to look after a person with suspected ebola, it is vital that staff feel confident they could care for a patient prior to their transfer to Capital and Coast DHB or in Whanganui Hospital if they were too sick to be transferred.
The exercise will involve the WDHB and a number of external agencies including the Whanganui Regional Health Network and St John Ambulance.
Mr Ward says because these agencies would work together in a real life situation, to have a multi-agency approach is essential.
“Each agency has their own ebola response plan but taking part in this exercise gives them an opportunity to put their plan into ‘action’ and see how it works,” Mr Ward says.
“It is important to emphasise that the risk to New Zealand remains low, but as health care workers return from affected countries, we need to be vigilant and as prepared as we can be.”
The WDHB’s Ebola Response Plan clearly identifies that the core senior staff who would be involved in the treatment of a suspected ebola patient are Whanganui’s medical officer of health and staff from ED, infection control and public health.
Mr Ward says the strict international infection control guidelines put in place for DHBs by the Ministry of Health cover personal protection equipment for staff, the way the treatment room is set up and appropriate waste disposal.
“Should a patient be looked after by our DHB, the risk to other patients, visitors or members of staff not directly involved with their care will be low,” Mr Ward says. “There will always be a small element of risk with staff directly involved in care, but this is minimised by following established guidelines.”
“Since the WDHB completed its plan last year, we have had several small exercises but they have been in-house, low key, and really about seeing how they can be improved, before we held a large multi-agency exercise.”