About a decade ago I was invited to talk at a conference in Hobart on preparing for “bird flu” because apart from my dedication to this proposed Bill my day job is occupational hygiene and air quality consulting.
In summary, this is the emergency preparedness (Isolation) plan in plain language:
- Forget about hospitals because the air conditioning filtration systems will not cope once the capacity of the hospital is significantly exceeded i.e. consider what happened to Chinese hospitals.
- Protect your primary human resource i.e. doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other support services i.e. avoid contaminating hospitals.
- Use open-air isolation strategies and decentralize the response using local resources. This also allows those infected to remain close to family.
- Every football, soccer, cricket ground, shooting range, racecourse, and any other gated open area facility becomes a potential M.A.S.H. unit. These places are designed for high volumes of traffic and people. Most already have 3 phase power installed and can handle portable air conditioners and other equipment. Adequate lighting is also available for night shift health care workers.
- Within each open area erect tents and shading with at least 10m between each tent with walkways delineated in a grid pattern.
- Install temporary buildings for intense resources for the critically ill, separating those infected from those that are in a critical phase of the infection.
- Use the asbestos industry trades-persons to install pine stud and plastic isolation areas with HEPA-filtered negative air units installed noting that asbestos fibers have a particle size less than that of a vector aerosol.
- Ensure it is public knowledge that in the event of a pandemic a patient will not be admitted to a hospital if a viral infection is suspected and will only be received at the designated areas (item 4 above) i.e. protect valuable HR resource (item 2 above)
- Natural ventilation in an open field dilutes potentially contaminated atmosphere (breathing zones of patients) quickly while buildings that are reliant on air conditioning filtration may not i.e. the recent case of the ship in Japan and the failure to prevent cross-contamination.
- Sunlight contains a powerful disinfection agent i.e. UV. Sunlight is not present within buildings.
The asbestos removal industry is the only industry with enough trained tradespeople to erect temporary structures using basic building materials such as pine stubs, cloth tape, staples, nails, and clear heavy-duty plastics that can be combined with asbestos industry negative air units so as to create needed facilities quickly.
As evidenced by China keeping our doctors, nurses, paramedics, and support staff safe when dealing with critically ill and highly infectious patients is the uppermost priority because if the health care system collapses because these people become infected we will lose the fight against a pandemic.
The result of a hospital being overwhelmed by infected patients is that the health care workers are placed at undue risk of becoming infected themselves.