PCH Basement Parking Trial

Amber, Deputy Chair of the CAHS Consumer Advisory Council helps test the new pre-screening and approved basement parking process in preparation for the trial
Amber, Deputy Chair of the CAHS Consumer Advisory Council helps test the new pre-screening and approved basement parking process in preparation for the trial
June 23, 2022

Due to COVID-19 safety measures and visitor screening processes, temporary parking changes were introduced at PCH with the closure of the PCH Basement Carpark in late January 2022. It was a difficult but necessary decision to prioritise safety during the COVID pandemic.

This decision was made based on risks of COVID-19 transmission, the unsafe environment of the carpark and ensuring timely access to the Emergency Department. You can read in more detail the challenges we faced below. We acknowledge the distress that this change has caused to our families and genuinely appreciate the patience of those who have been most impacted by this change.

Since the decision was made to close the carpark, we have been investigating ways to resolve the issues with basement access to the hospital with a view to returning the basement car park to visitor parking.

We are now able to trial a new pre-screening process with controlled entry for planned visits. A small group of oncology and haematology families attending outpatient appointments in Clinic H have been chosen to help trial the process in line with the safety and screening restrictions in place.

We do understand that there are other oncology and haematology patients, as well as other immunocompromised children or those with disability or access issues who would benefit from basement parking. This is a short and initial trial with a single cohort for ease of testing.

This trial and the feedback from participants, staff and our expert advisers will help shape further work to make this area safe for visitors. The PCH Basement Carpark will only reopen if there is a manageable process that allows us to meet our screening and visiting requirements in a safe way.

We would like to acknowledge the consumers from the CAHS Consumer Advisory Council and the CAHS Oncology and Haematology Consumer Group who have worked with us to provide valuable feedback and help shape the trial and the pre-screening process.

It is important to note that the current visiting restrictions and screening requirements for entering the hospital are still in place. For families visiting Perth Children’s Hospital, there is more information about the best places to park and the other ways we are trying to support access and screening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issues behind the close of the PCH basement car park

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many challenges around infection prevention and control, particularly due to the nature of COVID-19 as an airborne virus that is highly transmissible.

These issues are not unique to PCH, but the PCH basement has presented some additional challenges due to being an access point for visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These include:

COVID-19 transmission

  • Close contact with other people in indoor spaces poses a higher risk of disease transmission. Our obligations for screening visitors take time which means people need to line up and wait alongside people who may be unwell or sick with COVID.
  • As an airborne virus, COVID droplets can also circulate through areas with connected airflows. Screening prior to accessing the lifts is essential to prevent COVID entering the hospital’s air circulation via the lifts with connected airflows to wards. That is why pre-screening for COVID risk factors before entering the lifts is so important.
  • The Omicron variant is even more transmissible than prior variants and was tracking as having a greater impact on children when it was identified. When the car park was closed in January, there was very little data available beyond this to indicate the severity and risks of Omicron, particularly on children. This factored in the risk-based decisions as the available information was showing higher risk, but there was little data or modelling available to safely predict the potential impact on our children.

Unsafe environment

  • The lift foyer area was not designed for large groups to congregate, so spreading people out to physically distance or wait in a queue in a car park environment is unsafe due to the risk of traffic accidents.
  • Fumes, noise levels and air circulation in the closed car park are a problem both for visitors lining up for screening, and for the staff who need to be based in this work environment for significant time periods.
  • The requirement for Rapid Antigen Testing (RATs) for many patients and visitors adds another layer of complexity, especially as this process takes up to 25 minutes from start to finish. There is not a safe and appropriate way for this to be managed in the PCH basement.
  • Because the Green lifts are the only way for people to enter or exit the car park, it is essential that we screen and control entry, prior to the lift access (and block entry if there are risk factors or someone is not authorised to be at PCH in the current restrictions) before entering the hospital.

Timely access during emergencies

  • Quick access to the Emergency Department is critical for those who need immediate help. The requirement to line up in the basement, in the current set up, does not give screening staff ‘line of sight’ of all visitors to potentially ensure emergency assistance is available if needed. The Southern Entrance (or Emergency Department entrance) has a specific screening process and clinical staff available to enable rapid emergency care if required.