The Illawarra can now accommodate more COVID patients thanks to a Special Health Accommodation (SHA) facility within a vacant portion of the new Bulli Hospital
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) COVID Taskforce Chair, Dr Trevor Gardner said the facility itself "is absolutely perfect" for looking after COVID patients.
The doctor also allayed community fears, stating SHA was as safe as the COVID wards at Wollongong Hospital.
"It is reasonable for people to be worried but what I would say to the community is that this is what we do day to day," Dr Gardner said.
"This is what we do at Wollongong. We have COVID wards and COVID ICUs, with very sick people.
"We have engineering solutions to make it safer, the staff know how to wear their PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and the staff are vaccinated.
"We've brought that knowledge here to SHA.
"We firstly looked at the rooms and how the air flow goes to make sure the way the air moves is safe and it is away from staff and people within the SHA.
"Next the staff will be wearing personal protective equipment like they do at Wollongong and finally the staff are vaccinated.
"So we are basically using the same three-layered approach we use in Wollongong - engineering, PPE and vaccination.
"We are extremely happy that the SHA will be completely safe for our staff, the people within it and the community around us."
ISLHD chief executive Margot Mains said the facility means the District could now support the local community to isolate safely and receive care if they were unwell with COVID, but did not require hospitalisation.
"The impact of the Delta variant within households has been significant and many people simply cannot safely isolate at home. We have now established safe, local accommodation for patients who do not need higher level hospital treatment, but who do need care and to be isolated from household contacts," Ms Mains said.
"This site has always been part of our considerations in responding to COVID, but it has not been required until now.
"We want to assure the community, patients and staff within the hospital section of the Bulli campus that the two sites are completely separate entities, with independent functionality, including air flow and water supply.
"The safety of our patients, staff and the community is absolutely paramount and this facility has been reviewed from top to bottom to ensure it is safe for all."
The SHA is in addition to the District's Virtual Community Care (VCC) Service, which looks after patients who are able to safety isolate at home.
Patients are expected to start accessing the SHA facility from this week.