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Special Health Accommodation milestone

District cares for 10,000 people in Special Health Accommodation.

Man facing the camera holding up a postcard
SydneyConnect Image: Joseph Jewitt, the General Manager of Special Health Accommodation

The Sydney Local Health District team at Special Health Accommodation has now cared for 10,000 people during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the District marks 12-months since the first site opened.

Special Health Accommodation was set up to provide 24/7 comprehensive care for returning overseas travellers, and later members of the community, in self-isolation.

"It's the cornerstone of the COVID-19 quarantine program in NSW.

"We've created the blueprint for how best to provide accommodation, care and support for people during their isolation period," Joseph Jewitt, the General Manager of Special Health Accommodation, said.

A year ago, in March 2020, the New South Wales Government issued a Public Health Order which required people who arrived in NSW from overseas to undertake mandatory supervised quarantine.

The District had already made arrangements to lease local hotels in inner-Sydney - Special Health Accommodation was born.

The District began COVID-19 screening and testing of passengers at Sydney Airport, in partnership with South Eastern Sydney LHD.

Passengers without symptoms undertake quarantine at a police run hotel, while those tested for COVID-19, or who have an underlying health condition requiring active treatment or monitoring, complete quarantine at a Special Health Accommodation site.

The first Special Health Accommodation site opened its doors on 25 March, with under 20 patients, with the number of sites growing to seven as the pandemic unfolded.

"Special Health Accommodation is a critical public health measure because it ensures that patients with COVID-19 are cared for while also stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the community," Dr Leena Gupta, the District's Clinical Director of Public Health, said.

Now, Special Health Accommodation staff have provided care for about 1300 COVID-positive patients and more than 8350 COVID-negative patients.

There's more than 850 staff - including nursing, allied health, accommodation assistants, site managers, cleaners and security - across three current Special Health Accommodation sites.

Nurses provide onsite care 24-hours a day, seven days a week, with RPA's new virtual hospital, rpavirtual, providing specialised care for COVID-19 positive patients and those with more complex medical needs.

Allied Health clinicians, like occupational therapists, dieticians and social workers, plus psychologists, also provide support for those who require an increased level of care. This care can be delivered onsite or through rpavirtual.

"We are so proud of this service but it is the people involved who have made it possible," Dr Teresa Anderson, the District's Chief Executive, said.

"We're so grateful for the way you have cared for 10,000 people and for each other - from your willingness to step forward and be part of our COVID-19 response, to the attention to excellence and for the creativity, resilience and kindness you have shown," she said.

NSW Health Secretary, Elizabeth Koff also thanked staff for the invaluable role they'd played in protecting the community.

"Special Health Accommodation has been the best thing in my mind that NSW Health and Sydney Local Health District could have established. I want to congratulate you for the demonstration of such innovation, agility and commitment to service to the people of NSW," she said.

The New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said Special Health Accommodation was outstanding.

"You have made a huge difference in this one-in-100-year pandemic," he said.

To learn more, please watch our video about Special Health Accommodation.