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covid-19 Opinion

Melbourne nonprofit shares pandemic plan and outbreak management protocols

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pandemic plan

A Message from Uniting AgeWell CEO Andrew Kinnersly:

The alarming rate of community transmission of COVID-19 across Victoria is extremely concerning to us all. The number of cases reported over the past month, particularly in residential aged care, has understandably elevated the level of anxiety felt by older people, their families and those that care for them. We have seen the devastating impact this virus has on frail and vulnerable people both here and overseas, and our hearts go out to those dealing with illness, loss and grief.

Widespread community transmission significantly increases the likelihood of exposure to aged care staff. Uniting AgeWell is not immune to this risk. Staff from several of our sites have, through no fault of their own, acquired the virus through family or household contact. Others have had a household member test positive which has required them to quarantine.

In all cases, Uniting AgeWell has immediately implemented its pandemic plan and outbreak management protocols. Fortunately, as at the time of writing this message, we are not aware of any cases of internal transmission to any of our aged care residents or staff.

We have worked for many months now preparing for an outbreak and doing everything we possibly can to reduce that risk. The health, safety and wellbeing of our residents, clients and staff is our absolute priority.

A robust response to COVID-19 was put in place by Uniting AgeWell at the outset of the pandemic and this response has continued to evolve as the situation and risk has escalated. The response is led by our COVID-19 Taskforce comprised of executive, senior management and area experts who are able to support and guide our site and service leaders. The following are some of the precautionary measures we have in place:

  • Screening and monitoring of all staff and essential visitors who are required to complete a declaration regarding their COVID-19 risk, each and every time they attend a facility or service.
  • The introduction of visitor restrictions and precautions. At the present time, all Uniting AgeWell Victorian residential care facilities are closed to visitors, although exemptions are in place for exceptional circumstances, such as compassionate, end-of-life or assistance visits, for facilities that are not in full lockdown.
  • Regular updates and reminders to staff about their obligations and responsibilities in relation to COVID-19 risk, including notification, isolation and quarantine requirements if they, or someone they live with, is a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, or works at a place where COVID-19 has been reported. Uniting AgeWell has supported staff to access paid leave during quarantine periods.
  • Prior to the single site aged care worker provision introduced by Government from 27 July, Uniting AgeWell was already doing everything possible to prevent staff working across more than one Uniting AgeWell facility and providing additional shifts where possible to mitigate this.
  • Escalating community transmission means staff rostering is our greatest challenge. A special COVID-19 Workforce Planning team has spent many weeks developing and implementing a surge workforce plan. Through this work we have been able to secure additional staff via our community services workforce and our agency contractors who have been able to contract staff to a single site.
  • Face masks are being worn by all staff in addition to the hygiene and infection control practices in place. All Visitors to Victorian sites are also required to wear face masks. In the event of a potential COVID-19 exposure, full personal protective equipment (PPE) is being worn – that is mask, gloves and gowns, and if needed, face shields.
  • Uniting AgeWell is currently well stocked with PPE available and we have standing weekly deliveries in place. We have also actively worked with Government to secure additional supplies. Staff have received further training in the safe use of PPE and refresher training in infection control and management specific to COVID-19. When PPE is required, extra resources are put in place to ensure correct and safe usage and disposal.
  • Additional hygiene and touch point cleaning is being done every day.
  • Where required, services have been modified to reduce risk. For instance, our on-site cafes are now closed, our dining rooms are being reconfigured, and dining hours extended to ensure optimal social distancing can be maintained.
  • Cohorting of staff and residents is being managed within our facilities where possible, to reduce the risk of spread of infection. This means staff and residents work and spend time in their own wing or floor level rather than across the entire facility.
  • Residents are being screened for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 every day.

All of this has a human scale and we never lose sight of the impact this has on people’s lives and on their spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing.

Our promise to our residents, clients, families and staff is that we will continue to do whatever we can to reduce the risk and keep people safe while nurturing their health and wellbeing needs.

We will always keep you informed and regularly updated, particularly in the event of a COVID-19 exposure, and we will continue to work cooperatively and collaboratively with Government authorities to ensure directives are understood and correctly applied. We are absolutely committed to providing the highest standard of care and transparency each and every day.

Thank you for your ongoing trust and support.

orginal statement was publish in the Unitingagewell website

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