June 28, 2021

Ward 15: When “cleared” is your favourite word

For Margaret Ash, Patient Services Assistant (PSA) on Ward 15, Northern Health’s ward for suspected COVID-19 (SCOVID) patients, one word has become a favourite in the last four weeks – ‘cleared’.

“We had many high-risk and quarantine patients since Ward 15 re-opened again. Hearing the word ‘cleared’ just brightens up my day,” she said.

At the end of May, Ward 15 or the SCOVID ‘Red Zone’ had to quickly be recommissioned due to the latest Melbourne outbreak. For staff, working in the Red Zone meant they needed to quickly adapt to a different working environment, as well as the new team.

“We have four PSAs covering the ward, and we are here day and night. It’s kept very clean. Our job is to stop the spread,” Margaret says proudly.

For her, and her colleague, Ben Amatya, wearing the personal protective equipment all day can sometimes be challenging, but the team help each other and the nurses whenever they can, which makes the day easier.

“People are nice and we work and think as a team,” Ben added.

Amy Freeman, Associate Nurse Unit Manager, says working in the Red Zone is very quick paced, but is well managed with good staff.

“I work in Ward 14, our surgical ward, so this is the first time I am in the Red Zone. Some of the staff who worked here last year have helped us a lot. At the beginning, I felt like I was going into the unknown, but then it started to flow nicely and we had good support. It’s not that scary to work in the Red Zone – we are quite well protected and I feel safe here,” she said.

Clare McCarthy is the Nurse Unit Manager who was temporarily looking after Ward 15 last year – brought in from the Project Management Office/HRO Team – and is back in the role this time again.

For Clare too, the Red Zone was an adjustment. “I’ve been out of uniform for more than 15 years – to be back by the bedside was a big responsibility and frankly a bit daunting, especially in the heightened state of COVID,” said Clare.

“The nursing staff is a mix of our Ward 14 and Pool staff. We had to set up the ward quickly and be responsive for our northern community. In Ward 15, it’s a day of constant change and movement; patients get transferred, assessed, retested, and they move on. It is really a team effort, and I’m proud to be part of it,” Clare added.

To ease the loneliness of patients in the ward, the team are utilising technology to keep in contact with patient families – like iPads or Facetime.

“Contact is crucial for patients and families. We are getting patients that are quite complex and have a number of chronic conditions, so some stay with us a bit longer. Having that connection with their families and having them know what is happening is essential, as things change swiftly,” said Clare.

“The teamwork has consistently been amazing on the ward between the PSAs, nurses, doctors, pharmacist and allied health — it’s very much a ‘we are all in this together’ attitude,” added Rae-chal Burgess, Clinical Support Nurse.