Hospitals survive wrath of Cyclone Debbie

31 March 2017

(From left) Chief Executive Steve Williamson, Ali Reeves, Andrew Jarvis, Dr Tim Smart, Wendy Hoey, Peter Moss and Incident Controller Steve Parnell.

Central Queensland hospitals operated as usual throughout the week despite wild weather conditions brought by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

Chief Executive Steve Williamson said meticulous planning had paid off, and he was proud of the way staff worked together across the region to provide the best possible health care to their communities.

“Hospitals can’t just shut up shop when tough weather presents; they need to be ready to cope with any medical emergencies as they arise,” he said.

“During the past week our staff have been on the ground working extremely hard to serve their community under adversity. Aside from the expected storm damage to physical facilities including roof leaks, phone and internet disruptions and power blackouts, we’ve also had staff unable to get to work due to road flooding, meaning the teams have been much smaller than usual.

“Our staff at smaller hospitals are a resourceful crew and they’ve really shone in this past week.

“On Wednesday night Blackwater was isolated, and four critically unwell patients who required care usually too complex to be delivered at Blackwater Hospital were kept comfortable through the night until they could be transferred to Rockhampton and Emerald.

“This required an extraordinary effort from the small clinical team in Blackwater. As soon as the road opened on Thursday three nurses and two doctors from Emerald volunteered to work extra shifts to relieve their colleagues in Blackwater.

“Many, many staff put their work families and patients above their home families by volunteering to work extra shifts and do jobs outside their normal role description.

“I am humbled, impressed and extremely proud of the way all of our staff have continued to provide outstanding health care to our community.”

The health service started planning for the cyclone event over the weekend and on Monday increased its alert state and began manning the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) at Rockhampton Hospital.

Mr Williamson said the hospital emergency planning team worked closely with staff on the ground to anticipate and solve any problems before they arose, including physical repairs, staffing issues and making sure patients were in the best possible location for their care.

“Our clinical teams are very experienced and have learnt many valuable lessons from previous floods and Tropical Cyclone Marcia. They know to check on our regular and our high-risk patients and ensure they’re safe and have a good medication supply, to ensure dialysis patients are where they need to be before roads are cut, and where to expect issues.

“They also worked with local disaster management groups in each location, checking on predictions and forecasts.

“The HEOC was manned every day throughout the week to ensure each hospital had the appropriate support to deal with issues, and that patients needing transfer were able to be moved as required.

“We really are a health family here at CQ Health and I wish everyone well as the floodwaters continue to rise,” Mr Williamson said.