Covid-19 media release 07/08/2020

Friday 7, August 2020

FROM: CEO – Graham Reed
DATE: 7th August 2020

The news from Victoria on the rate of increase in the numbers of people who have tested positive to COVID-19 in recent days is of significant concern to all Australians regardless of which state you live in.

It is particularly concerning to see the impact the virus is having within residential care homes where there are now over 1,500 active cases of the virus linked to aged care staff and residents.

It is worth remembering that in early June, Victoria was experiencing a decline in active cases and the state had no active cases in aged care. On 7th July – only 4 weeks ago – the Victorian Government reported a new case had been confirmed in a staff member in an aged care home in Rosanna. The next day, another 5 cases were linked to aged care homes. One week later, Victoria Health was investigating 40 new cases linked to three aged care homes.

According to the Department of Health, as of yesterday, there are now more than 1,500 active coronavirus cases linked to more than 90 aged care homes across Victoria.

Quite rightly the questions being asked are:
 Why are aged care homes so vulnerable?
 Why is the virus able to spread so rapidly in aged care homes?
 How do we prevent this from happening here in LHI?

The evidence that is emerging from the Victorian experience is that in almost every instance, the virus has been brought into aged care homes by staff who had contracted the virus in the community. Health experts have concluded a major factor in the spread of the virus is through infected staff members who have worked in multiple homes where they have inadvertently spread the virus further and faster.

The government is urgently considering the feasibility of requiring aged care staff to only work in one home. LHI will wait to hear what, if any, directions are given on this option.

It is also important to understand that residential aged care homes are not hospitals. They are communal living environments, where some of our most vulnerable citizens live, not because they are sick, but because they are frail and need assistance with a range of life tasks. The aged care sector has worked hard over the past 20 to 30 years to ensure that residential aged care homes are more like a home and less like a hospital.

As we have seen in New South Wales and now Victoria, caring for residents who have tested positive to Coronavirus in residential care homes has proven to be particularly challenging.

In South Australia, we are very fortunate to have an agreement in place with SA Health that provides for any resident who tests positive to Coronavirus to be immediately transferred to hospital. This arrangement is not in place for New South Wales or Victoria.

What else is LHI doing to keep our community safe?

The current focus for everyone at LHI is to do everything we can to keep the virus out of our community by closely following the advice provided by our health authorities.

Residents and their loved ones will by now be well aware of the protocols that continue to operate to screen visitors, contractors, staff and volunteers before they enter either of our aged care homes. I am pleased to report that this screening applies equally to all staff and visitors including the CEO. The week before last, I visited our Hope Valley home with a guest who had been vaccinated for influenza but she did not have with her documentation that confirmed she had been vaccinated. She was, quite correctly, denied access and we left without entering the home.

This Wednesday at Glynde, the alarm was raised when a staff member working in Kafé Schulze, was informed that one of her friends had been exposed to an individual who had tested positive to Coronavirus. We immediately closed the Kafé, sent the staff member home and undertook a thorough clean of the Kafé. Even though it was later established that the coronavirus test was negative, it did provide us with an excellent opportunity to review how we managed this potential exposure.

In the next two weeks we plan to undertake further “test runs” on our outbreak preparedness just to help us understand where our outbreak management plans might need to be improved.

In spite of the fact that the number of active cases of Coronavirus in SA remains low, LHI’s pandemic response team is continuing to meet regularly to review any changes that need to be made to current restrictions and to identify any areas where improvements can be made.

On the subject of being prepared, some residents and family members may have heard this week that across Australia less than a third of the aged care workforce had participated in compulsory COVID-19 training. I am pleased to confirm that we have a significantly higher number of staff who have completed this compulsory training.

Through our planned “test runs” of a COVID-19 outbreak, we anticipate there will be areas we identify where we need to make changes. We know that in outbreak management it is vitally important for all staff to have a clear understanding of what to do when. Insights gained from these exercises will be used to determine what further training and support is required for staff to effectively manage an outbreak.

Residents and family members will be pleased to know that Kafé Schulze is open again for business between the hours of 10 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday. We are also considering the feasibility of reopening the Kafé on Sundays for lunch hopefully commencing later this month. We will confirm the actual date next week.

Finally, with the theme - #Thanksforcaring - today is being recognised as aged care employee appreciation day where we acknowledge the wonderful contribution of the front line staff who work in aged care. This has been quite possibly the most challenging year ever for aged care employees across the nation. Living with the constant threat of an outbreak of the Coronavirus since January 2020 has been incredibly draining on staff safeguarding the health and safety of residents and consumers whilst also safeguarding the health and safety of their own family members.

On behalf of the LHI community I pay tribute to all of our staff who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of every individual in our community. Please join me in acknowledging our staff particularly today – aged care employee appreciation day.

Graham Reed