REVIEW OF LOCKDOWN PERIOD
We know the last 2 weeks has been difficult for families of our residents since we introduced a lock down of all our residential facilities. These restrictions were above and beyond the Government recommendations which limit visitors to two each day for a brief period per resident per day. At the time of the initial decision there was a local COVID outbreak in Bankstown and the LGA was considered a hot spot for infections. In the past few days NSW Health has recommend increased testing of hot spots in NSW, and Canterbury, Bankstown and Liverpool suburbs are still on the hot spot list. We have carefully considered this information and also the message from the Commonwealth Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy, about being cautious about lifting restrictions in the general community, and we believe the risks to our residents of lifting the lockdown restriction at this time is too great. Based on all the available information we believe the safest decision at the moment is to extend the lockdown for another 2 week period. We thank you for your understanding, patience and support at this difficult time and we will keep finding ways for you to connect to your loved one. We will continue to allow visitors to see their relatives based on compassionate grounds and will work with families to ensure that you are included, supported and informed of all changes to your loved one. If at any time during your conversations via phone, video etc you are concerned about your relative please contact the facility immediately so we can reassess the resident. We have been contacting the primary contact of the resident weekly with a health update and we will continue to do this whilst we remain in lockdown.
OLDER PERSONS ADVOCACY NETWORK (OPAN)
OPAN is an organisation that offers free aged care services that are independent and confidential. The services focus on supporting older people and their representatives to raise issues relating to and accessing and interacting with Commonwealth funded aged care services. OPAN has recently created a section on their website with COVID resources relevant to residential and home care clients and a link is attached for your information. One of the topics on the COVID section of the website refers to access to residents during a lockdowns and the need for compassionate consideration which BCAC supports. OPAN is also working on establishing a national approach and definition to what is compassionate grounds for visiting during this time.
MONITORING OF STAFF AND CONTRACTORS
We recognise with the recent media focus on a staff member in Western Sydney who worked for a number of days in an aged care facility whilst having the COVID virus, and we want to be transparent with our families about the monitoring system we have had in place for several weeks.
All staff, GP’s, physiotherapists, ambulance staff and anyone else who is permitted to enter any of our residential aged care facilities signs a declaration which includes the following questions:
- I confirm I have no symptoms of an acute respiratory illness e.g. sore throat, fever, cough
- I confirm that I have not travelled overseas or on a cruise within the last 14 days
- I confirm that have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days
- I confirm that I have not been asked to self isolate at home by the Public Health Unit or the Department of Health in the last 14 days
In addition to the above declaration every person entering each site also has their temperature checked, and in accordance with the advice of the Public Health Unit, if their temperature is above 37.5 degrees they are not permitted to proceed past the testing area.
Each week we issue staff with a newsletter and on 14 April the following extract was included:
STAY AT HOME IF YOU FEEL UNWELL
You may have heard on the news this morning about an aged care worker from Western Sydney who worked for 6 days whilst showing symptoms of COVID-19. Please DO NOT COME TO WORK if you feel unwell with any of the symptoms of COVID, a common cold or influenza. The attached fact sheet is useful information on the symptoms if you become unwell after you start your shift please GO HOME. Your colleagues would rather be short staffed for one shift (if we can’t find anyone at short notice to replace you) than to work with someone who might have the COVID virus.
As a worker in the Aged Care industry you qualify for testing for COVID- 19, so if you are unwell with the symptoms that could be COVID-19 you MUST get yourself tested and not return to work until the results are back and you are negative. Ordinarily, we would respect your privacy when it comes to asking you questions when you call in sick, however these are not ordinary times. We need to know if you have any symptoms when you call in sick or go home sick during a shift. Your symptoms are VITAL information that could help us protect your colleagues and our residents/home care clients.
UPDATE FROM NSW HEALTH
In earlier newsletters we referred to advice we had received from NSW health about the need to complete Advance Care Directives. Thank you to the relatives who have completed these and returned them to us. For those families that are still discussing them please return them to us as soon as possible.
Please find link below on recent communication from the NSW Ambulance service about what residential aged care providers are required to do when calling an ambulance and you will see the first document they ask for is the Advanced Care Directive. This triage of ambulance services and transfer to hospital is very different to the existing model and we are sharing this information with you so you understand how the health system is engaging with aged care providers. Based on the triage system residents may not be transferred to hospital even if relatives would prefer this option. The aim is to support the aged are provider to look after the resident without the need to transfer to hospital. We will continue to contact you if we call an ambulance and will update you on what is discussed with the ambulance service and doctor.