Following a series of lift malfunctions that ANMF members believed were putting mothers, babies and staff at the Angliss Hospital at risk, the Branch’s maternity services officer, OHS team members and ANMF members stepped in to help find a safe solution.
ANMF (Vic Branch) was notified in February that due to ongoing malfunctions with the elevators at the Angliss Hospital, some maternity patients requiring an emergency C-section were being transported to theatre via basket stretchers – or ‘canoes’ – normally reserved for rescue operations.
The hospital’s maternity services are located on the third floor while the theatres are on the second; when the elevators are out of action, the only way between floors is via the stairs. In response to the situation, hospital management implemented part of Eastern Health’s Business Continuity Plan, which was developed for use in the event of a power outage that required patients to be evacuated without the use of the elevators.
The transport procedure that was implemented for use during lift malfunctions stipulated that staff strap the patient into a basket stretcher on an emergency trolley and lower them down the stairs to the floor below. But the stretchers required eight staff members to lift and carry, and the stairwell was not wide enough to accommodate them. So, the amended procedure that was actually used involved the stretcher being slid down the stairs instead of carried.
This situation obviously presented unacceptable OHS risks to staff as well as potential clinical risks to expectant mothers, and their babies.
The Branch was notified of the issue late on the afternoon of Friday 25 February. The following Monday, February 28, we contacted the Angliss executive, who advised that the procedure had been reviewed and deemed suitable as there was no other alternative to transfer the women to the theatre.
In response, we submitted an urgent Service Request to WorkSafe and followed up with a phone call to ensure they were aware of the seriousness of the matter. WorkSafe then sent an inspector the hospital on Thursday 3 March.
In the meantime, the Branch continued its correspondence with the Eastern Health executive and Government representatives highlighting our concerns over the practice and the risks posed not only to staff but also to the mothers and babies involved. This meant that by the time WorkSafe attended the site, Eastern Health had already decided to cease the practice and relocate Angliss Hospital Maternity Services to Box Hill Hospital until the faulty lifts can be replaced. As of writing, the relocation had been completed and there were no longer any maternity patients at the Angliss Hospital.
ANMF understands that the Eastern Health engineering team are in weekly contact with the lift company. The lifts are on track to be replaced by June 30 2022, and the Branch is providing support to members who have had to temporarily relocate.