More than 80 of Taranaki DHB's doctors have put their hands up for a one-day training course so they are prepared, if needed, to help fight Covid-19 in Base Hospital's Intensive Care Unit.

Dr Jonathan Albrett, HOD Intensive Care says the specific training course was developed by a New Zealand doctor.

"Hawke's Bay Intensive care specialist Dr Ross Freebairn has developed the Covid-specific training course to help introduce ICU concepts to other groups of doctors who don't usually work in ICU. If a lot more Kiwis are hospitalised with Covid-19, the likelihood that extra clinical staff will need to step in to help out in ICUs across New Zealand is possible. Taranaki is no exception."

Dr Freebairn has waived any fees involved, says Dr Albrett.

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He also enlisted the help of another doctor, Dr Mike Park, who is head of department of Hawke's Bay ICU, to help the Taranaki team run their first course which took place at the start of the month.

Dr Albrett and ICU nurse educator Briget McDonald are now also trained as BASIC instructors, so they can continue teaching intensive care concepts in Taranaki District Health Board hospitals.

Dr Albrett and Briget, along with local ICU staff, will now run the courses weekly for doctors and senior ICU nurses, with a BASIC for nurses course starting next week for nurses with less ICU experience.

"We are extremely grateful to Dr Freebairn that he has been able to help us organise a local course, especially given he is also running the training in Hawke's Bay, and working in intensive care," says Dr Albrett.

Taranaki DHB doctors participating in the training include house surgeons, registrars, and senior doctors from ED, anaesthesia, Hāwera, general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, general medicine, paediatrics, dental, obstetrics and gynaecology, says Dr Albrett.

"The hope is to put 100 of Taranaki DHB Senior's and resident doctors and 60 ICU and other nurses through the course over the next few weeks, with the first course completed last week and a nursing course starting soon. It's great for the morale of our ICU staff to know that so many of their colleagues are prepared to pitch in and help should the hospital need it."

Rosemary Clements, Taranaki DHB chief executive, says it is great to see the support from the medical staff.

"It's incredibly positive to know that so many of our doctors and nurses, all with their different specialities, are prepared to help out should we need them."

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Taranaki DHB staff have also been flat out making sure facilities at both Base and Hāwera hospitals are well prepared for Covid-19 and its impact on staff, patients and family/whānau, says nurse manager Cameron Grant-Fargie.

"The extensive work is all in aid of creating safe treatment spaces for Covid-19 patients and for the staff caring for them. This has been achieved by using external spaces in the Emergency Department for the triage process and setting up multiple negative pressure spaces in the ED."

Cameron, who is leading the upgrade, says the negative pressure spaces are important when it comes to containing the virus in the hospital.

"Negative pressure spaces use lower air pressure to prevent internal air from reaching the rest of the hospital, allowing patients with infectious conditions to be isolated."

The ICU has also been transformed so that there is a clear pathway and areas for Covid-19 patients to be cared for safely.

"Multiple negative pressure rooms have sprung up over night in our ICU. There are new walls and spaces that have been painted and look as if they have been there forever. Ward 4A has also been set up as a negative pressure unit, if required."

Rosemary says it is good for the wider community to be aware of the work being done in readiness.

"All the work achieved sends a clear message that Taranaki's hospital facilities and staff
are prepared. It's important that our community knows about all of the work being done behind the scenes to make sure that we are in the best possible position to get everyone through Covid-19 and this challenging time."