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Work begins on new high security quarantine unit at Melbourne



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PRESS STATEMENT BY THE COMMONWEALTH MINISTER FOR HEALTH,

MR RALPH HUNT, AND THE VICTORIAN ACTING MINISTER FOR HEALTH,

MR LOU LIEBERMAN

WORK BEGINS ON NEW HIGH SECURITY QUARANTINE UNIT AT MELBOURNE

The Commonwealth Minister for Health, Mr Ralph Hunt, and the

Victorian acting Minister of Health, Mr Lou Lieberman, today announced

that a contract had been let for construction of an eight bed high security

human quarantine treatment unit at Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital,

Melbourne.

The Ministers said that the unit, which is estimated to cost

$1.075 million, was scheduled" for completion in June, 1980, and the '

construction would be paid for by the Commonwealth Government.

The unit will serve as the national treatment centre for any

cases of viral haemorrhagic fevers which might be detected in Australia.

Under a new human quarantine policy announced by Mr Hunt in 1977> any cases

of the viral haemorrhagic fevers (such as Lassa Fever, Ebola Virus and

Marburg Virus) may be flown from anywhere in Australia to Fairfield, using

high security air transit isolators which were purchased by the Commonwealth

Department of Health in May this year. In support of the new policy, the

Commonwealth Department of Health has negotiated agreements with commercial

airlines who will use freighter type aircraft to fly the patient to Melbourne

in the isolator, attended by specially trained aero-medical teams drawn from

the staff of Fairfield Hospital.

Once in Melbourne, the patient will be transferred to one of the

eight special bedrooms which are at the core of the new hospital unit.

2 .

The unit was designed "by the Commonwealth Department of Housing

and Construction. It incorporates the most m o d e m concepts of infectious

disease control and is the equal of or better than similar units under

design or being constructed in other parts of the world. Special air

handling systems are incorporated into the unit to ensure that all air

exhausted from the building is treated to prevent the spread of diseases.

All clothing worn by the staff while working in the unit will be destroyed

after use, and all food and human waste will be sterilised and treated in

special equipment built into the unit.

Mr Leiberman said that Victoria was very pleased to be able to

co-operate with the Commonwealth in the development of the new human

quarantine strategy. Fairfield Hospital was the only hospital of its type

in Australia devoted entirely to infectious disease nursing and it had been

natural for the Commonwealth to seek the assistance of Victoria in _

implementing the new policy. ·

Mr Hunt said that Australians could be assured that the policy

being implemented through the use of isolators and the new ward at Fairfield

would provide the best protection available against these 'new1 viruses

emerging from other countries. . ’

When not required for Commonwealth purposes for human quarantine,

the ward will be used as a standard treatment unit by Fairfield Hospital.

In this way, a very costly building will not lie idle for periods but provide

a day-to-day service to Victoria, the Ministers added.

Canberra, 25 July 1379·