Date issued: 12 August 2020

Issued by: The Executive, Heritage Care

Issued to: Residents, Families, Staff, Contractors at Epping Gardens, Heritage Care

Purpose: To provide all stakeholders with information about COVID-19 at Epping Gardens and our responses. These updates will be provided when there are changes to the situation at Epping Gardens.

Deepest Condolences

Heritage Care pass on our deepest sympathies to all family and friends who have lost their loved ones and our staff who, through their day to day work, formed an emotional connection to those who have passed.

We confirm the following:

  • 97 residents have now tested positive for COVID-19 which is unchanged from yesterday
  • 60 staff have now tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of one from yesterday
  • 24 residents are on-site at Epping Gardens, 13 of whom have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Comments

We will continue to provide updates on the changes made at Epping Gardens to provide assurance we have progressed and implemented many new processes specific to our current environment and to benefit those we are entrusted to care for.

Testing
We want to provide some clarity around our testing procedure. Firstly, we unreservedly apologise for providing incorrect communication in previous updates. We stated last week testing was planned for all residents. This was not the case. Testing, so far, is only being completed for residents and staff who have not yet been tested, or who have previously tested negatively. The Public Health Unit is currently only testing people who meet these criteria at Epping Gardens.

We acknowledge this misinformation has caused some much additional distress and confusion in an already very difficult time. We are sorry for this.

  • We confirm we are guided by medical staff, informed by the Victorian Aged Care COVID Advisory Committee as to an appropriate time for retesting for those who have tested positive. If a doctor directs the retesting for one of our residents, we will be in touch individually and advise.
  • The turnaround time from on-site testing has improved significantly since our first tests. We are now generally receiving test results the day after testing, with only a few tests taking more than one day to return.

Besides swab testing, a daily COVID-19 screening tool is being performed for each resident in our care organisationally. We check a range of indicators to determine any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 as we believe early detection results in early intervention including transfer to hospital even prior to swab testing if required.

Infection Control
Our infection control and practices are being reviewed and updated daily. Aside from the large-scale processes like cohorting, we are implementing many small changes from day to day.

  • We have dedicated Registered Nurses responsible for ensuring adherence to these practices and that staff are using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriately. Continuity of staff has helped in this area. We are seeing more of our staff returning to work, which has lead to a more consistent approach to infection control.
  • Increased cleaning of multiple staff touchpoints continues throughout the home each day. We perform regular cleaning, including deep cleaning as required.
  • Staff rooms were cohorted and rearranged to ensure social distancing at all times at the start of the outbreak.
  • Residents continue to be ‘bed bathed’ in their rooms.
  • All residents are being treated as potentially COVID-19 positive until conversion ceases.
  • Reception continues to be manned at shift start and end times to ensure compliance with all sign in and out procedures.
  • We use dissolvable laundry bags, allowing clothing to be collected and laundered without additional handling beyond bagging the items in the resident’s room.
  • Full ‘terminal clean’ of the home was completed with support and supervision by Northern Health on 3 August 2020 with additional cleaning performed on rooms of residents after being transferred to the COVID-19 positive wing

Workforce
We welcome the temporary and agency staff provided through the government, but need to advise this has come with additional challenges. Many of the staff assisting require infection control training and training in the residential aged care setting. A lot of time has been invested in the training and supervision of these staff. We are welcoming the slow but sure return of our own staff.
These additional measures have been put in place to ensure adherence to these processes:

  • PPE instruction and supervision at the start of each shift
  • Supervision and coaching to maintain social distancing in non-resident areas
  • Regular hands-on training sessions on infection control in units, including hand hygiene
  • Training on sessions on monitoring and recording Covid-19 signs and symptoms
  • Supervision of lunchrooms
  • Supervision of Allied Health and Pathology
  • Checking rooms and staff practice with food.

Availability of registered nurses has been an issue, but we are expecting this to improve over the coming weeks as more staff return to work. We continue to work with the state government to assist with the gaps in our roster.

Medical Services
We also wish to assure you our clinical team is being supported by Northern Health’s InReach service and the Heritage Care National Quality Team. Residents are being reviewed daily or as required. Additionally, Allied Health professionals are providing the following services:

  • The site’s Physiotherapist have returned to Epping Gardens
  • Dietician consultations have been ongoing and taking place via telehealth online
  • Speech pathologists are available to be called in as required
  • Podiatrist’s are available to meet urgent resident needs.

Communication
Communication initiatives continue, including regular updates and feedback from hospitals which are passed on to family members via our Communications Team. Video calling remains available. We now have a stable team managing this aspect of care which again has improved continuity.

Heritage Care continues to receive support from the Austin Hospital in the form of consultation. We are also attending meetings with the Department of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission now each three days.

The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) free services support older people and their representatives to address issues related to Commonwealth funded aged care services. Should you wish to be connected with an advocate, you can reach OPAN on 1800 237 981.