Aged care and disability sectors in safe hands
Published at: 11 Sep 2020
FOR ABOUT FOUR WEEKS, GV HEALTH HAS HEADED UP THE HUME REGION CLUSTER COVID-19 RESIDENTIAL AGED CARE AND DISABILITY RESPONSE GROUP. THE GROUP HAS ENSURED THE REGION’S AGED CARE FACILITIES ARE AS WELL-PREPARED FOR AN OUTBREAK AS THEY POSSIBLY CAN BE.
Residential aged care and residential disability facilities throughout the entire Hume region are in safe hands when it comes to preparing for a COVID-19 outbreak.
GV Health is the lead healthcare service involved in the Hume Region Cluster COVID-19 Residential Aged Care and Disability Response Group with Northeast Health Wangaratta and Albury Wodonga Health playing a key co-ordination role in the central Hume and border north-east areas.
GV Health Executive Director Community Care & Mental Health and lead for the response group Joshua Freeman said the group’s responsibility was to support and co-ordinate the care escalation of aged care residents who tested positive for COVID-19.
Mr Freeman said the group also recently expanded to include residential disability facilities.
Team leader Alynda Wayman said the group was initially tasked with sending surveys out to all aged care facilities in the Hume region.
More than 60 facilities were contacted about issues around staffing, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and much more.
“When the surveys came back, we then ranked them according to their results and used that to form a heat map,” she said.
“That showed us which facilities were more at risk and we used the map to conduct site visits where we did practical assessments of how they should store PPE, what their COVID-19 plans were and if they had any questions we could answer for them.”
Ms Wayman said a number of facilities had undergone a physical or virtual assessment.
“Alongside the work we have done in aged care facilities, we are now starting work with the disability sector too.”
The group’s assessments involved identifying gaps, risks, resourcing and/ or training requirements related to the COVID-19 response, looking to support improvement across the sector.
Ms Wayman highlighted the fact that the the team was instrumental in the recent response to Shepparton Villages’ Maculata Place‘s small outbreak when two staff and one resident tested positive for COVID-19.
“We were on site within 12 hours,” she said.
“We have completed swabs of all residents now.”
Mr Freeman said this was part of the group’s role, to support aged care services when an outbreak had taken place.
“This has been the case with the Shepparton Villages outbreak recently where a range of clinical support such as specialist residential in-reach teams, infection control nurses, educators, nursing staff and COVID-19 testing teams from GV Health were deployed once it was realised an outbreak had occurred,” he said.
Mr Freeman said support for the team at Shepparton Villages had continued in recent weeks and would only finish once the Department of Health & Human Services declared the outbreak was over.
The outbreak was declared as being finished this week and GV Health moved into an 'active surveillance' phase.
“The goal is to ensure our entire community is supported during an outbreak and this can be achieved if the public and private sectors pool their expertise and resources to work together,” he said.
The response was praised by the community as there were no further COVID-19 diagnoses at the aged care facility.
GV Health Chief Executive Matt Sharp said the group had been in place for more than four weeks.
“The challenge faced by some Victorian aged care facilities has demonstrated the need for decisive action to protect the most vulnerable in our community and the staff who care for them during COVID-19,” he said.
“This group has taken and will continue to take a collaborative approach to developing a plan to support the local aged care and health sectors through the pandemic.”
Mr Freeman said the COVID-19 response plan was well under way.
He said the group had done an incredible job, which was reiterated by Ms Wayman.
“Everyone at GV Health is working really hard,” she said.
“As an organisation, we have really stepped up.”
Ms Wayman thanked the post-acute care, Hospital Admission Risk Program – Emergency Department (HARP-ED), Health Information Services, Pathology and District Nursing staff for their support.
“We are a small team and they’ve stepped in and helped out when needed which has been incredible,” she said.