COVID-19 spotlight – RPBG External Patient Transport Team

Photo of patient transport team
Some of our amazing patient transport team members pictured with the transfer vehicles.
December 4, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge for health care services all around the world. From the beginning the situation evolved rapidly and we are still contending with constant change – often more times than we think possible in a week.

The health system in particular has gone from business as usual to rapidly requiring pandemic preparedness and response activities. As much as we can plan and prepare through disaster planning and business continuity scenarios, in reality the ability to respond, mobilise, adjust and implement initiatives efficiently and effectively for our community is vital.

All East Metropolitan Health Service staff are sincerely thanked for their efforts in continuing to deliver care for our community, whilst also adapting to this challenging situation and responding to change.

RPBG external patient transport team

Implementing the measures required to safely physical distance and adhere to the one person per two square metre restriction was a critical step for the health system in preparing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to best protect staff and the community it was essential that the way patients were transported in our vehicles for transfer to external sites such as other hospitals or health care facilities, was adapted when the COVID-19 physical distancing criteria was enacted by the State Government.

The RPBG external patient transport team are part of the Patient Support Services (PSS) group and are responsible for inter-hospital transport of patients using a fleet of five vehicles specially configured to carry stretcher patients, wheelchair and mobile patients.

The team consists of nine permanent and casual staff members who coordinate and provide safe and reliable transport for inpatients to and from appointments, as well as transfers to other public hospitals and health facilities (metropolitan and regional).

Normally, the patient transport vehicles are configured for:

  • 3 x two stretcher ambulances – two patients on stretchers and two ambulant people
  • 1 x wheelchair vehicle that can transport two patients in wheelchairs and two ambulant people
  • 1 x one stretcher vehicle – one patient on stretcher and one ambulant person.

According to RPBG PSS Assistant Manager Bill Poposki, the team quickly mobilised to assess the requirements for implementing the protective measures.

“There was very little lead in time and the changes needed to be made almost immediately,” said Bill.

“The restrictions meant that effectively we were halving the number of people able to be transported in each of the vehicles; so, the team had to adjust very quickly to increased workload with twice the number of trips required to move patients to where they needed to be.

“While St John Ambulance Australia would be used to transport any patients displaying COVID-19 symptoms, our teams undertook all the necessary training in proper hygiene practises and appropriate PPE to be able to protect themselves, each other, patients and the community.”

In addition to adapting to the required restrictions, the team had to manage a significant increase in the demand for transport to assist with the many actions being undertaken across the organisation to prepare for managing potential COVID-19 patients in EMHS hospitals.

“The team helped move patients from some acute and rehabilitation wards at RPH to enable preparation of dedicated COVID-19 inpatient wards,” said Bill.

“During this time the establishment of the surgical step-down program at BHS was also leading to more patients being transferred after their surgery at RPH to finish their care journey at Bentley.”

Acknowledging the incredible efforts of the patient transport team, Bill said the achievements were underpinned by the team’s commitment to the hospital and health service visions and values.

“Being able to achieve and deliver the services required with such a rapid increase in workload was unprecedented, but we knew that it needed to happen, and we wanted to play our part in protecting the wellbeing of Western Australians.”