Infection prevention has never been so critical. We speak to Suzanne Hammouche, CEO of GAMA Healthcare Australia, about the latest developments in the country’s healthcare space.
THE WARD OF AUSTRALIA
Following mass vaccine rollouts and booster jabs, 2022 has represented a turning point in the globe’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and return our lives to an ever-vigilant relative normality.
Having witnessed and experienced the severe impacts of the virus, there is no question how important personal and public hygiene is for people across the world.
“COVID-19 management has been very different in Australia, and the overall period has had a significant impact on our business. We have seen many changes that we didn’t expect to see in general consumers, and these have accelerated very quickly,” begins Suzanne Hammouche, CEO of GAMA Healthcare Australia (GAMA). “Prior to COVID-19, infection prevention wasn’t really on people’s radars. People were not so concerned about the aerial transmission of viruses or hand hygiene, but now it is something we talk about on a daily basis and have done so for over two years.
“We are seeing changes to policy coming out of government and the rush of new technology towards combatting the virus and others has been incredible.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies around the world to face and adapt to necessary changes in business practices.
“Like any organisation, our supply chain had to become incredibly robust, and that challenge is still ongoing with what we see today,” Hammouche informs us.
“At the height of the pandemic we saw shortages in raw materials, including those same materials that go on to make and be used in the production of face masks and gowns, and so we watched the price of these materials and products skyrocket. So, ensuring that we had availability of supply and making sure that we were able to obtain containers and vessels when we needed them was incredibly important.”
In Australia, the volume GAMA required tripled, and it was this priority of supply that became the company’s primary focus. GAMA had to adopt a stock allocation process to ensure that supplies were being distributed fairly and to where they were most needed across the company’s base of customers, guaranteeing they were making it to the front line not simply catering to large orders from any single customer.
“On top of this, like everyone else, we moved to virtual working,” Hammouche continues. “As a company we provide a lot of education, that’s a key part of what we do, and we have a big team of clinical nurse educators that would be based in hospitals providing education whether by lecturing, workshops or basic cleaning and disinfecting type guidance for healthcare workers, cleaners and many others. But that all had to become digital, and so we had to adapt via Microsoft Teams and Zoom to continue educating.”
This education and training continue to be a core part of the company’s dedication towards helping healthcare institutions, and for Hammouche, GAMA’s purpose of improving infection prevention and saving lives has never been so prominent, receiving more attention than ever before.
“Our team was driven by the knowledge that our work was making a difference and helping lives. What we have been able to achieve as an organisation really comes down to our people”Suzanne Hammouche, CEO, GAMA Healthcare Australia
BORN WITH A MISSION
GAMA specialises in infection prevention and control, supplying the Australian market with products, research and the training required to combat the spread of disease and viruses in healthcare facilities.
The company was founded in 2004 in London, UK, by two doctors who took a keen interest in infection prevention and microbiology.
“This was right at a time when hand hygiene was becoming a greater deal than it already was, and the founders recognised what role it played in the transmission of infection,” Hammouche tells us. “On top of this, sufficient sanitisation of common medical equipment such as the stethoscope was limited, and the founders decided to create a product that could wipe, clean and disinfect equipment in one step.
“GAMA was born from this one idea, and they partnered with a scientist in England to develop a universal clinical wipe that is now used by over 90 percent of NHS hospitals in the UK and Australia, and over 70 percent of public hospitals in both countries as well.”
GAMA was established to help save lives in a wide reaching and effective way. The company has since grown, creating a range of products and support services, but ultimately retaining its core as an infection prevention specialist company.
REVOLUTIONISING PATIENT ISOLATION
This company growth is exemplified by the development and launch of Rediroom, an instant patient isolation room designed for quick assembly and maximum infection prevention.
Rediroom is a mobile cart that expands into a HEPA air-filtered isolation room with hands-free entry and provides greater isolation capacity and flexibility.
“The concept of Rediroom was actually an Australian invention by an organisation called Care Strategic, with the original idea coming from an emergency department (ED) nurse who brought up the issue of inadequate isolation space for patients who need it,” Hammouche explains. “Typically, in an emergency department when a patient requires isolation, they are often placed into a facility that is too large or may only have some signs indicating that they are in isolation. So, the Rediroom concept was born from the need for something better.”
Ironically, the Rediroom was developed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this was the perfect opportunity to show the difference it could make.
“It’s been an instrumental piece of equipment and has streamlined the bed flow management in healthcare facilities across Australia,” Hammouche says. “With the Rediroom you now have a place where a patient can go and isolate even if there are no single rooms available, and it is cost effective as well.
“It’s essentially the size of a PPE trolley but erects around the patient without the need for them to move location in the facility. The patient can remain in bed while the Rediroom is installed in less than five minutes, and it operates with its own air filter, significantly reducing the potential for airborne virus transmission. Its curtains are sealed at the ground to prevent them opening, and the doors are opened automatically by using a ground pedal. Once the patient leaves, users are able to dispose of the entire canopy and replace it for the next.”
Statistically, the use of Rediroom has lowered the chance of infection rate by 75 percent in some healthcare facilities, while also remaining a cost-effective solution when it comes to saving time and space; two much needed commodities within the busy day-to-day operation of hospitals.
HOLDING ONTO VALUES
People are at the heart of everything GAMA does. This is easy to see through products such as Rediroom, which keeps people safe and saves valuable time for patients and healthcare workers alike, as well as the company’s dedication towards the education and facilitation of infection prevention. This kind of people-centric care echoes throughout the business at an employee level as well.
“We have a set of values that mean a lot to the organisation, but the key part of this is helping to prevent infection,” Hammouche affirms. “This means so much to everyone in the company, and I think that the commitment of our staff has really shown during the pandemic, a time that was so difficult for so many.
“Our team was driven by the knowledge that our work was making a difference and helping lives. What we have been able to achieve as an organisation really comes down to our people. They absolutely love what they do and what they bring their customers.”
Moving ahead through 2022 and beyond, GAMA is going to carry these values forward while keeping an eye on the demands for healthcare equipment, and focusing on its product development.
“We are always watching trends in the industry and market, and developing products to answer this,” Hammouche says. “On top of this, globalisation is very much at the forefront of our aims. We have a presence in the UK, Australia and China, and we have over 330 staff globally, but making sure that we have our products available through distributors and that we are providing them with the support they need is critical.
“In line with this, making sure our end users and customers have the support, tools and education necessary to use our products will always be a core driver of GAMA, so that we can continue to make a difference to peoples’ health around the world.”