Jessie McPherson moves hearts and minds for COVID-19

As part of the pandemic response, on Wednesday 25 March, all bed capacity on Level 3 at Jessie McPherson Private Hospital (JMPH) was contracted to be transitioned into a COVID-19 Admission Ward for suspected positive patients awaiting test results.

All-employee forums were held for JMPH on Thursday, 26 March, and a mere five days later on Monday 30 March, Wards 31 South and 31 North were ready for admissions.

The transition involved agility and teamwork in planning and implementing changes to logistics, workforce training, systems, and processes. Level 3 transitioned from mainly caring for cardiac patients to handling stroke victims, among others.

It’s been a busy time ever since, and to date, the COVID-19 Admission Ward has seen over 560 patients.

We took a moment with Jennine Harbrow, Director Clinical Services at JMPH, to discuss the formidable work she and her team have put in to move from ‘hearts to minds’.

What’s the feeling like over at JMPH?
When we knew that the whole of Level 3 would become a COVID-19 Admission Ward, we immediately thought, ‘what will it look like?’ We held a forum with the team and worked with Stuart Cavill to map out the changes we’d need to make to infrastructure, our systems and equipment, and of course, what was required for our people to make this change happen.

There are 19 single rooms on Level 3, so it made sense to have the admissions ward there; it’s an ideal location for isolating potentially infected patients while waiting for results.

While there was an understandable degree of anxiety, everyone embraced it regardless, and they are really enjoying working collegiately with the medical team.

In short, the team has been amazing, resilient, adaptable, and flexible.

What would you like everyone to know about preparing for COVID-19 positive patients?
Connect with your team and keep talking with them. Initiate discussions if you need to and listen to them. Offer them the Employee Assistance Program and Call a Psychologist services and above all, don’t judge, just let them talk. There’s also the practical side of things, move high-risk employees to work areas and tasks that are safe for them to do.

How does the COVID-19 admission ward work at JMPH?
Anyone suspected of being COVID-19 positive comes to the admission ward at JMPH to await a determination of their COVID-19 status. If they are positive, they are transferred to a COVID-19 management ward. If they are negative, they go to the relevant ward for their care.

Jennine Harbrow, Director Clinical Services at JMPH, and members of the dedicated JMPH team

How did everyone prepare for the transition?
There was a considerable amount of work involved to take what is in effect, a private hospital, and transition it within days to a public hospital. There were new systems to learn overnight and different patient cohorts to treat.

The team is loving the challenge and working closely with their medical colleagues to ensure they have the support they need. Dr Georgia Soldatos and Dr Sumi Baskaran have been working alongside us, and their assistance has supported the implementation of the model of care.

The team is fantastic; nothing is too much trouble. With support from Ward 54 here at Monash Medical Centre, who upskilled the 31 North ward nursing employees in neurological deterioration, we have gone from working with cardiology patients to ‘hot stroke’ patients.

It doesn’t end there; they are really pulling together and ready to do anything from clinical care to cleaning goggles with Chlordet; they are working as one.

They had to learn everything from scratch in some instances, changing IT platforms – having used WebPAS, but now having to use iPM for patient access and flow. Employees even had to relearn something as simple as how to order a meal using the new system.

How has it all gone?
It’s been an amazing journey for me and an incredible role since I started in December 2019. I’m so grateful for the Nurse Managers and the After-hours Co-ordinators (ADONs). I meet with the Nurse Managers twice a day, and I know between them all, everything is in safe hands. I have full faith and trust in my team when I leave work at the end of each day that everything will be taken care of.

Do you have any words of wisdom for teams across the organisation?
Listen, listen, listen.

Care and compassion are essential for our teams and our colleagues too. Everyone is dealing with this differently. These are uncertain times; we are working with each other through this, but we have to work with each other once this passes too!

I’m an advocate for trust and being honest; even Managers don’t have all the answers! So reach out to People and Culture, Infection Control, and other subject matter experts for the facts. Don’t make decisions on the fly; you must still aim to be informed regardless of the urgency.

What would you like to say to your team?

I couldn’t have done this without the people around me in every role and function. We couldn’t have mobilised as quickly as we did without them. We are a big work family, and I am so grateful that they are always working for our patients, each other, and the organisation.

Any final words you’d like to add?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have noted that Monash Health’s people are leading in so many aspects and have been on the front foot. There’s a systematic approach to incident command throughout the whole organisation and at all levels. This means that when I leave work, I know everything is in safe hands. As the admission ward for Clayton, they are on the frontline after the Emergency Department, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Like many teams across Monash Health, my team at Jessie McPherson Private Hospital has rallied and come to the fore. The story here is about teamwork and rising to these challenging times. Even through such uncertain times they can shine and demonstrate what they’re made of.


Authorised by Stuart Cavill, General Manager Allied Health & Patient Flow Operations, 14 May 2020

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