Biocontainment centre opens in Sydney

3 minute read

The specialised facility is designed to treat and isolate patients with rare and dangerous infectious diseases like Ebola and MERS.

Australia’s first purpose-built biocontainment centre has opened at Sydney’s Westmead Health Precinct.

The NSW Biocontainment Centre was built to treat and safely isolate patients with rare highly infectious diseases, also known as high consequence infectious diseases (HCID).

These types of acute infectious diseases have high case-fatality rates or special significance and include Ebola and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

Infectious diseases such as covid and influenza are not included in the range of diseases managed at the centre.

The centre is a shared facility of Westmead Hospital, part of Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) and the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network but will support the whole state.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the centre was equipped with six specialised quarantine-class and negative-pressure beds and would help effectively respond to future pandemics and provide high level care to both adult and paediatric patients.

“The community can be assured that, with this facility, NSW is ready to act and keep the community safe,” he said.

“I am really pleased to see clinicians from both Westmead Hospital and the Sydney Children’s Hospital network embracing this model of care, which is the first of its kind in Australia.”

The facility includes a critical lift to transport contagious patients directly from the Westmead Hospital helipad or an ambulance straight to the biocontainment centre.

It also has three steam steriliser autoclaves to process contaminated waste and has its own sewage treatment plant to treat contaminated patient waste.

The floor of the centre has also been purpose-designed in different colours to identify which areas are “clean” or “contaminated” for additional safety.

Specialist medical, nursing, pharmacy, laboratory, and allied health staff trained to manage patients through strict infection prevention and control practices are available to the unit when required.

Parramatta MP Donna Davis said the Westmead Health Precinct was home to some of the state’s “best and brightest” clinicians.

“It makes sense this facility is based here, where our highly trained clinicians stand ready to manage any cases of these highly contagious diseases,” she said.

WSLHD acting chief executive Dr Rebecca Nogajski said the centre would operate as the state-wide referral and outreach facility for patients with suspected or confirmed HCID, as well as an education and training hub for preparedness and safe practice in managing these diseases.

“This centre is self-contained, able to provide high-level emergency care, as well as access to specialist therapies such as phage therapy,” Dr Nogajski said.

“The centre stocks rarely used antibiotics, antivirals, antitoxins, vaccines and other key therapeutics. It also offers expert infectious diseases advice, including referral to relevant diagnostic testing and locations of testing, links with NSW Health Pathology and management able to be utilised as a 24/7 service in the early phases of the response.”

The Westmead Health Precinct is one of the largest health, education, research and innovation precincts in Australia and is a key provider of jobs for the greater Parramatta and Western Sydney region.

More than $3 billion has been committed by the government and precinct partners to upgrade and expand existing health services, education, research and innovation facilities.

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