Ensuring that one’s business environment is operationally safe is a vital part of meeting a PCBU’s legislated ‘duty of care’- particularly since the onset of Covid-19. Few are as critical however, as those providing an essential medical service to patients with a wide range of lung problems including airway diseases such as asthma and COPD, bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis, lung infections and lung cancer.
MQ Health Respiratory and Sleep is a large practice of specialist Respiratory Physicians providing expert medical advice, diagnostic services and treatment options for patients with a wide range of respiratory and sleep disorders. MQRS is based at Macquarie University Hospital and has become a centre of excellence for advanced interventional bronchoscopic procedures in New South Wales.
Dr Lucy Morgan is a director of MQ Health Respiratory and Sleep. She and her colleagues have all spent much of the last 2 years at the frontline of caring for patients with severe COVID infections in public hospitals. But at MQRS they are busy making sure that patients with other lung problems can access the clinical care they need as quickly as possible.
“Patients with lung problems such as emphysema, silicosis, lung cancer and so on, need timely access to specialised care. Telehealth is appropriate for some patients under some circumstances. But many of the patients I see need a face-to-face consultation, many need procedures performed in hospital, and most need special breathing tests, all of which have the potential for spread of COVID-19 via aerosol generation,” said Dr Morgan.
“In a hospital setting, testing for COVID is about confirming that a patient’s symptoms are due to COVID-19 so they can be managed in the best way possible. In a private practice like MQRS, testing is about keeping our doors open so we can provide essential clinical services to patients who do not have COVID, and about keeping our business afloat.”
Even as restrictions are lifted across our community, some things (such as breathing tests) continue to pose some risk of virus transmission. You can’t do breathing tests or have a bronchoscopy to diagnose a new lung cancer with a mask on.
“Unfortunately, with the very rapid onset of the Omicron wave, many organisations were taken by surprise, and we found ourselves horribly furloughed with absences – many of our staff either had Covid-19 or were a close contact of someone with it – and our services were significantly impacted.
“As a group we have actively sought a robust Covid-19 testing solution that offered a product with very high sensitivity and specificity, that offers rapid and accurate results effectively enabling the practice to stay afloat. Our enquiries led to Gardian and the implementation of their end-to-end Point of Care program incorporating the Gardian Self Check and Gardian Test Tracker products, that are working extremely well,” adds Morgan.
While not looking to diagnose patients on-site per se, our business requires tests with very high sensitivity so that they can be sure that any person attending the practice, even if asymptomatic, is deemed ‘Covid free’ prior to their clinical consultation.
“In this environment, we cannot afford to rely on a subjective “I have no symptoms”, or “I used a home test” that may or may not have the required sensitivity or may or may not have been done correctly. The implications of a ‘false negative’ in the clinic would be wide-spread and could be dire.,” said Morgan. “By using the Gardian ‘test, track and trace’ system we have peace of mind that every staff member and patient is Covid-free.
“As a clinician, I need to know that we have a safe testing environment for patients to maximise their access to the tests and treatments they need. As a business owner and employer, I need to know that I am providing a safe workplace for my staff. It’s vital to our business that we keep the doors open so we can get on with the job of caring for patients with non-covid lung disease. It's part of our plans for our community to keep living alongside COVID into the future.”