COVID-19 update # 11

The last few weeks have been a huge challenge for everyone, and the aged care sector has been right at the forefront of that challenge. Abel Tasman would like to thank you for your support and patience with helping us deal with COVID-19 so far. While it has been difficult and hasn’t always been perfect, the numbers show that Australia’s aged care sector has done a much better job than many other jurisdictions around the world.

However, we know that recent comments made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy have created confusion and concern about visitation restrictions in many Residential Aged Care Homes across Australia. I would like to confirm that visiting hours remain from 1pm to 5pm daily, thus avoiding the lunch service and ensuring that we maintain social distancing to prevent unnecessary contact between residents and other visitors.

The Zoom sessions with Katja and Janina are working very well. If you would like to schedule in a session, please email them at activities@abeltasman.com.au. We are on track to re-commence our Activities programme with Information Cultural exchange (ICE) programme and our residents via ZOOM. We had our first successful trial session with one of our residents on Monday 20th April 2020, more details on our Facebook page.

We are continuing to review our processes and provide essential training regarding COVID-19, including the following:

  • maintaining infection control protocols
  • activating their facility’s COVID-19 emergency response plan
  • finalising arrangements for seasonal flu vaccinations
  • regularly communicating with aged care consumers and families.

A friendly reminder that all residential aged care staff and visitors should be vaccinated with the 2020 Flu Vaccine by 1 May 2020 as you will be asked by the RN on duty to present your certificate. As per last week’s update COVID-19 #10, please send your certificate to fluvax@abeltasman.org.au or alternately give a copy to the RN on duty.

Sophia Markwell,
Acting General Manager

COVID-19 update # 10

Following  last week’s update (Advice No.9), I am very pleased to advise that we continue to have a steady calm throughout the Village and with our Home Care clients.  Perhaps our biggest hurdle has been the acquisition of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  The team has managed to procure a new delivery of digital thermometers that will be issued to all Home Care staff as well as within the Village.  We had several deliveries of face masks and hand sanitiser which means we are very well placed to deal with any contingency.  We have a supply issue with gloves however we are utilising alternate supply chain sources so I do not anticipate any problems.

Our flu vaccination program is now back on track – all ATV residents have received their vaccinations and we have now secured vaccine for all staff and volunteers.  Anyone who requires assistance please contact Sophia or the RN on duty.  Our home care team will also speak to their clients to provide any assistance or support in obtaining their vaccinations.

During these past weeks,  the shopping service for our home care consumers has been adversely impacted with shortages in essential groceries. In consultation with consumers, service times were changed to 6:30 am, and we had a outstanding outcome with satisfied consumers. Our carers effectively adapted to this change with ease so many thanks to the care team to take this challenge head on.

We will soon require all visitors to have had a recent flu vaccination. You will be asked to produce a certificate when entering the village. Alternatively, you might like to place a certificate on file by emailing a copy to fluvax@abeltasman.org.au

I again want to pass on my thanks to our Activities team who have been working hard with the residents and external providers for a wide range of stimulating activities and contacting families through Zoom…well done.  Next week we will be starting a new initiative with our friends from Information and Cultural Exchange…more of this in next week’s update.  Until then, stay safe and the next scheduled update will be provided next Friday 24 April.  As always, you can email me at gen.mgr@abeltasman.com.au or call during business hours on 9645 3388.

Glenn Kirkman
General Manager

COVID-19 update # 9

Following  Monday’s update (Advice No.8), we are now well into our new routine and the restrictions that residents, families and staff are now working under appears to be working well. There has been a plateauing of COVID-19 numbers resulting in no further changes to the Government imposed restrictions.  This being the case we will now scale back our updates to a weekly update with review either at the end of the month or whenever there is any significant message/change to the situation.

The flu vaccination program is going well for residents, however we have a problem with getting the vaccine for staff due to a national shortage.  It would appear that aged care staff have not been afforded any priority and there is no indication when this will be resolved.  Sophia is continuing to chase up our pharmacy in the hope that we can get this done as a large collective.  In the meantime, I have instructed Home Care staff, as a matter of priority, to seek their vaccination visas via their local doctor/pharmacy.  Can I also strongly urge our home care consumers to do likewise as a matter of urgency. As a demonstration of commitment I was able to have my vaccination this morning…I hope you enjoy the photo!  If we are unable to source the vaccine by next week, I will instruct the ATV staff to similarly get this done via their local GP/pharmacy.

A vote of thanks to our Activities team who have been working hard with the residents and external providers for a wide range of stimulating activities and contacting families through Zoom… well done.

Wishing you all a safe, restful Easter and the next update will be provided next Friday 17 April.  As always, you can email me at gen.mgr@abeltasman.com.au or call during business hours on 9645 3388.
Glenn Kirkman
General Manager

COVID-19 update # 8

Dear Residents, consumers, families, friends and staff

Following last week’s update (Advice No.7), we continue to see a good level of compliance with our control strategies however staff report there was an increase in families wanting to go outside the timings or restrictions.  I need to reinforce that these restrictions have been imposed for the protection of all residents/consumers and it is essential that we follow them to avoid the need to put in place even more controls as sadly we have seen fatalities within aged care facilities. As with the initial advice provided, the Government has mandated that visits are limited to a maximum of two visitors per day for a maximum of two hours and that the visits are to take place in the person’s room or open space.  There are to be no visits done in communal areas.  Effective from tomorrow (Tuesday 07 April 2020) the hours of visits is to be adjusted to the hours of 1pm to 5pm daily thus avoiding the lunch service and ensuring that we maintain social distancing to prevent unnecessary contact between residents and other visitors.

The zoom video contact system has been tested and is now in place.  If you want to arrange for this service, you need to contact the activities staff to set it up and arrange a mutually agreeable time.  Contact details are:
Units 1A to 25 – Janina (mailto:janina@abeltasman.org.au)
Units 101 to 140 – Katja (mailto:katja@abeltasman.org.au)

Please send an email with your contact details to  activities@abeltasman.com.au and in the subject line indicate Zoom Contact for your relative and room number.  Either Katja or Janina will then communicate with you on getting this in place.  I am also pleased to advise that the flu vaccination program for residents has commenced.  We are still waiting on supplies to be provided for staff which we hope to commence prior to Easter.  Please keep following the Government updates on the virus and measures to keep safe. 

For your convenience, the following links may assist you:
Australian Government Department of Health – https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
NSW Health Department – https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission – https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/covid-19-coronavirus-information

With Easter coming up this weekend, the next update will be provided this coming Thursday 09 April.  Thank you for all your support during this time.  As always, you can email me at gen.mgr@abeltasman.com.au or call during business hours on 9645 3388.

Glenn Kirkman
General Manager

Newsletter & COVID-19 Update

It’s April and time for our regular monthly newsletter. Download it here while you read Glenn’s update below…

Dear Residents, consumers, families, friends and staff 

Following our Monday Advice No.6, the situation appears to be now falling into a period of relative calm. There are no new restrictions announced however the NSW Government through the Police Commissioner has indicated that the restrictions that are in place will remain so for a period of 90 days.  I am hopeful that the current strategies will be enough to avoid going into lockdown because, as you appreciate this will place an enormous pressure on residents, relatives and staff.  As you can see by the attached monthly newsletter, we are taking proactive steps to ensure the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of residents is being addressed.  Some key strategies are maintenance of group activities taking into account restrictions on the number of participants, social distancing rules, the maintenance of our onsite physiotherapy service, resumption of Rosa’s hairdressing services, Katja and Janina’s skype/zoom family and spiritual sessions alongside the normal good cheer and interactions from our staff.

Our home care coordinators are now working from home.  This hasn’t changed their access to consumers and I know that they are spending a lot of time contacting consumers to determine their care requirements and to support them during this difficult time.  We also wish to acknowledge the support provided to our staff who are working flexibly to ensure the continuation of our services.  We are maintaining a full service in Administration however will be employing flexible working arrangements where possible.  If you need to contact either Virginia (admin@abeltasman.com.au) or Ishmam (accounts@abeltasman.com.au) you can email to arrange an appointment time.  There will be no interruption to normal services.

Knowing that we are potentially looking at a long period of enforced isolation I feel we are in a good place to manage this as well as having all the required PPE and infection control resources due to good planning from the team.  Now more than ever, we have to ensure we support each other so please take care of yourself and if you are finding it difficult to deal with the restrictions, please contact either myself, Sophia or the RN’s – we will do everything possible to support you.  As always, you can email me at gen.mgr@abeltasman.com.au or call during business hours on 9645 3388.

Glenn Kirkman
General Manager

COVID-19 update # 6

Dear Residents, consumers, families, friends and staff,

Following our Friday update there are two new changes that are impacting the Village.  The first is a recommendation that anyone over the age of 70 or are health compromised do not leave home unless there are exceptional reasons to do so.  Accordingly, we have met with a number of residents today and advised that we are now requesting residents to follow the government recommendation and not to go outside the front gate. 

This has particular relevance to our home care consumers.  Our coordinators are assisting you with information on these changes and how it might affect your services.  As members in the community the ultimate decision is yours and we will assist you with reflecting any changes withing your current service plan.  We do however strongly urge you to follow the guidelines and if it is necessary to get something from outside the home, consider having the care worker do this or alternatively ensure you have appropriate PPE (face mask, gloves) wash hands or use hand sanitiser regularly and maintain the social distance/restriction on having people around you.

I have received a number of enquiries concerning the issue of lockdown – this is currently not a Government direction and is over to providers to implement their strategies in controlling COVID-19.  At this current time we consider our strategies to be working and appropriate for the control of COVID-19.  In summary, we have strengthened PPE, temperature check all staff and residents each day, have implemented social distancing strategies within the dining room and all gatherings, restricted site access to external contractors and deliveries and reduced the visiting hours and duration of visits for residents.

Each of these controls has some effect.  The management team sat in on a webinar that looked at the learnings to be gained from the BaptistCare incident at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge.  As a response we reviewed our current approaches as well as our outbreak controls, and we are satisfied that these are appropriate at this time.  In the event that there is any change we will of course adjust as required.  It is a significant issue to deny residents social contact and restrict their movements in and around the Village.  If any resident or family has a concern we are able to implement an individual strategy to help satisfy their requirements including self isolation in the room where we will deliver all services including meals.  Please contact the Care Manager (Sophia) or the RN on duty if you want to discuss this further.

The Government has also reduced social contact to a maximum of two people.  We are strongly urging residents to avoid all non-essential contact with others and would seek family support in this regard.  Within the workplace, we are now looking to ‘cohorting’ staff.  In essence this will mean that staff will be allocated specific areas to work in over the foreseeable future to minimise cross-contamination.  We are now looking at all non-essential staff working flexibly from home where possible or reducing their hours at work.  To improve the social connection for our residents, Janina and Katja have set up zoom so that families and friends can have real time chats together…Katja will be sending out a notice on this to families.  We also continue to have allied support within the facility – particularly dedicated physiotherapy (they are only working here) which is essential for those residents requiring assistance with mobility and range of motion.

Finally, I wish to provide an update on our flu vaccination program for 2020.  We have received the vaccine for residents and are working with our doctors to write the prescriptions so that these can be administered.  The registered nurses will be contacting residents or their representatives to provide the authority to give the flu vaccinations.  The Government announced that commencing 01 May 2020 all visitors and staff must have a current flu vaccination (i.e within 12 months).  Relatives and visitors are strongly urged to have their vaccinations before the 01 May deadline.  On the staff side, we have advised staff that this requirement is now mandatory and we will be commencing staff vaccination in the next two weeks.

Thanks again for all the messages of support. If there is anything additional that you would like to bring to our attention, feel free to email me – gen.mgr@abeltasman.com.au or call 9645 3388 during normal business hours.

Glenn Kirkman
General Manager

COVID-19 update # 5

Dear Residents, consumers, families, friends and staff,

Following the implementation of the tighter restrictions imposed from midnight on Wednesday, we have seen a relatively smooth transition.  In what is a stressful time for all, the staff are very appreciative of the support provided by residents and families. We have noted good compliance with the new visiting time restrictions (12-5pm each day) and 2 visitors per day; maximum of 2 hours.  We have implemented social distancing in our dining room for all meals – this is working well and my thanks go to the residents for their assistance in making this work and the staff who continue to work flexibly and always with a smile.  We have also applied the same to our staff meetings – we conducted our first meeting within the hall with a number of residents and visitors in attendance…I think this was well received.

As mentioned in Advice notice No.4 we have introduced compulsory face masks for all staff and visitors.  We are very limited in our ability to provide this to our staff and residents.  I would again ask families to provide their own masks which can be purchased from any pharmacy – we have been advised that Chester Hill Pharmacy currently has these available for purchase.  We understand that this may not always be the case and if so, we are able to provide small amounts at cost.  I wish to acknowledge some families have arranged with Sophia to purchase boxes of masks to be placed in the rooms and this is invoiced as an additional service.  Can family representatives please pass on this information to those visiting as some appear to be unaware of this requirement.

There are two developments within Aged Care sectors across Sydney.  The first is acknowledging some facilities have gone into ‘lock down’.  We are not contemplating this as long as we continue to see compliance with our current controls and there is no mandated requirement.  The second involves one new confirmed case (COVID-19) in both Quakers Hill and Bankstown aged care facilities. NSW Health is following up all close and casual contacts of both confirmed cases and both facilities are in lockdown (NSW Department of Health 25.3.2020). We are aware of the two facilities in question and can confirm that we do not have any staff working in either of these facilities.

Finally, a number of services can be conducted.  These are physiotherapy and podiatry allied health as well as hairdressing services.  We will be contacting Rosa to confirm she is able to resume services and our thanks to Chester Hill Physiotherapy who are providing a dedicated service to the Village which minimises potential exposure to COVID-19.

Please stay well and we strongly remind folks to follow the directions to self-isolate and maintain good social distance separations wherever you need to go out.  Likewise just like the Village, hand-washing is a central plank of prevention.  As always if there is any restriction that you feel strongly about please contact me on ph: 9645 3388 to arrange a face to face meeting with myself and the clinical manager (Sophia) so that we can make a suitable plan that can work for all parties.  Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me during normal business hours.  The next update is scheduled for Monday 30 March.

Glenn Kirkman
General Manager

COVID-19 update # 4

3 March 2020

Dear Residents, consumers, families, friends and staff 

As you can appreciate the COVID-19 situation is serious and the controls being implemented by the Government are continuing to tighten as the risk to our community continues to rise.  It is now clear that these restrictions will be in place for a significant period of time and this has particular relevance to our residents within the Village and our home care consumers.  Based on the latest advice from the Department of Health we will be further tightening our control measures to prevent COVID-19 affecting residents and consumers.  It is my intention to issue regular updates to you on Monday and Friday each week and at any time should there be any significant changes.  It is essential that we maximise communication for the duration of this crisis.

Commencing 24 March, 2020 the following changes are to be implemented:

  • All visitors including contractors must sign in and out.  It has come to our notice that during the week there has been a good level of compliance with the sign in/out procedure including preventative use of the hand gel stations at the gate, sign in book and throughout the Village however this has fallen away over the weekends.  I must remind everyone that the best form of defence against this virus is prevention.  The use of hand gel in combination of regular handwashing is a central pillar in successfully protecting people.  It is a CONDITION OF ENTRY and any observed failure to comply will result in being asked to leave the facility
  • A reminder that ALL visitors and staff who have returned from overseas or been in contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days will not be able to visit a residential aged care facility.  Nor will anyone with a fever, symptoms of a respiratory illness or who, from May 01 have not been vaccinated against Influenza.  We are currently awaiting the arrival of the flu vaccine and this will be administered to ALL residents and staff
  • Visits are now to be restricted to a maximum of 2 hours per day and restricted to two visitors each day (including the doctor)
  • In accordance with Department of Health guidelines we are forthwith reducing visiting hours to 12 noon to 1700 pm each day. We have consulted with our regular visitors to alert them to this change however I wish to seek the support from the family representative/s to coordinate visits with your families.  As these conditions have tightened it has placed an extra workload on staff and we need your support to work with us on the implementation of visit timings.  We do not want to be placed in a position of having to turn away family or friends however as can be seen in the general population, where control measures are being ignored it may lead to even stronger measures and I would remind you that the reason for these restrictions is to minimise the exposure of residents to this virus as the consequences are significant to the elderly
  • Children 16 years and under are not permitted to visit except in special circumstances
  • Effective immediately ALL STAFF working in the Village or providing home care support are required to wear face masks
  • All residents will be encouraged to wear face masks and all consumers receiving home care services will be required to wear a face mask for the duration of the service.
  • Commencing Wednesday 25 March, ALL VISITORS will be required to wear a face mask whilst visiting the Village.  These are currently in short supply and whilst we request visitors to provide their own masks we understand this may not be possible so if required, at sign on please indicate to the staff if you require a mask and it will be provided
  • The dining room meal service will be adjusted to incorporate the government stipulated 1.5m social distance rule.  We will be introducing additional tables and allowing residents to dine in their rooms
  • We will be reducing all non-essential external services.  This will include optometrist visits, podiatry, dentist and hairdressing etc.  Where emergency services are required we will arrange for these to be done in consultation with the resident/family
  • We recognise that these restrictions may have a significant impact on residents.  The activities coordinators will be making arrangements with residents and families to facilitate scheduled skype contact calls.  Additionally, the RN’s will be provided with an iPad to facilitate GP/Allied Health consultations.

I understand these changes may be difficult for residents and families.  It is important to work together to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent it entering the Village.  If there is any restriction that you feel strongly about please contact me to arrange a face to face meeting with myself and the clinical manager (Sophia) so that we can make a suitable plan that can work for all parties.  Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me during normal business hours.  Unless anything dramatic is announced over the next few days, the next update will be this coming Friday 27 March.

Glenn Kirkman
General Manager