At Estia Health our intense focus is the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents and employees and we have made a number of important changes to the way we provide care for our residents in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). We continue to make changes as the situation evolves.
Infection prevention and control is central to mitigating the risk of COVID-19 and at Estia Health this is guided by the latest expert advice.
Training in infection prevention and control is mandatory for our employees and we continue to modify our infection prevention and control protocols across all our homes in line with the growing understanding of how COVID-19 is spread.
We know it is also an important part of our response to COVID-19 to provide safe and meaningful opportunities for our residents to connect with their families and friends.
We have strong supply chains for personal protective equipment – items including masks, gloves, face shields and gowns. We constantly monitor stock levels and usage and have supplies available to meet anticipated future requirements.
We are continuously monitoring each of our homes and the communities around them and take additional measures to protect our residents and employees as the need arises.
Since March last year, we have offered all Estia Health employees paid quarantine leave, to ensure no employee has to come to work if they have symptoms or have had potential contact with COVID-19.
We also require our employees to follow the recommendations and guidelines issued by the various State Governments for the reporting of potential exposure to COVID-19, while waiting for a COVID-19 test result, or displaying any COVID-19 symptoms.
The Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) has a range of resources available to support residents and their families through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Elder Rights Advocacy (PDF) flyer includes useful information about resident and family rights and support available to them.
The COVID-19 vaccine has been scientifically proven to reduce the impact of the virus, and a high level of vaccination in Australia will help us live our lives more freely, protect our families and friends and reduce the frequency of lockdowns. Most importantly, a high vaccination rate will help to protect those living in residential aged care.
The Commonwealth Government’s vaccination program for residential aged care began in February 2021, with the initial focus on residents. As a result of this program, all of our residents across our 70 homes have been given the opportunity to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some residents chose not to receive the vaccine or were unable to receive the vaccine due to individual health conditions and medical advice.
Since May, we have been working with both the Commonwealth Government and Sonic Healthcare to conduct our own in-home employee vaccination clinics. We have been encouraging our staff to go to vaccination centres or their GPs but we are pleased to have been given approval for the in-home program as it provides the most effective way of achieving vaccination of all staff which is our absolute objective. These in-home clinics will progressively commence from the second week of July.
The Commonwealth Government announced last week that all aged care workers must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-September. Through offering these in-home clinics all Estia Health employees will have access to both doses to complete their vaccination against the COVID-19 virus, ahead of the Government’s mid-September deadline.
Estia Health has a Positive Test Response Plan that we implement if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in any of our homes. This plan has been reviewed by independent infection control experts and we will continue to review and modify this plan as required.
As soon as we become aware of a positive COVID-19 test result for a resident or employee, the home immediately implements the Positive Test Response Plan.
The Plan includes:
Closing the home to all visitors.
Requiring all residents to remain in their rooms.
Full single use, personal protective equipment is used by employees in resident care.
Deep cleaning of the home.
Quarantining employees with a positive test result and other employees who have had close contact with that employee.
We also notify the health authorities of positive tests, and they then guide us on the procedure for all residents and employees in the home to undergo testing. As soon as test results are returned, we inform residents, their families and our employees of the outcome, for both positive and negative results.
We work closely with the Public Health Units in each state as well as the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, who provide guidelines and directions including, the process for ongoing regular testing and transferring residents to hospital on a case-by-case basis.
We also add extra resources and support so that families are individually updated about their loved ones, including the families of those residents transferred to hospital. Families can also access a dedicated support phone line for the home.
We host regular group ‘virtual’ meetings with families to update them of the overall situation in the home and answer their questions. The opportunity for video calls is available as we understand the challenges that arise in not being able to personally visit loved ones at this time.
A COVID-19 outbreak in a home presents unprecedented challenges for residents, their families and our employees. We provide a free and confidential counselling service to assist with support during this difficult time.