Doutta Galla COVID-19

12 August 2020 

Dear Residents, Family Member and Friends, 

Firstly, I completely understand the distress and worry that you may be feeling about yourself and your family member. Over an intense period, we were faced with many assessments and conditions that required very quick and decisive actions about the care of residents. At times we needed to make decisions that did not enable us to communicate in the way we wanted to and in the way you expect and deserve. 

As is the case for the many aged care facilities currently impacted by this virus, the situation develops and then escalates rapidly, and the way we must respond to the escalating situation must move equally quickly. We were relentless in our call out to government agencies to assist us. I know that for our residents and families, this has caused very understandable anxiety and we are doing everything we can to address that. Over the past 48 hours, the situation concerning the movement of residents to hospital and the sourcing of staff has been priorities. The aim is to ensure the everyone is settled, comfortable and in safe hands after the disruption that has been caused in the last week by the necessary activation of our emergency response measures and the necessary relocation of some of our residents. 

We have established a team of experienced Doutta Galla staff to answer calls and make calls off site because staff at the site simply have to focus on taking care of the residents. Their care is paramount. This system has not been perfect, and we are sorry that some families may feel that we have not done enough in this regard, but we are doing everything we can to communicate with you. We also apologise for the computer problems which meant that some of you many have received only some, and in some cases no, updates from me which I am sure has added to your frustration and worry – these letters are an important part of our communication with you which I take very seriously. As soon as we realised this had occurred last night, we re-issued all the correspondence from the past few days. I am hoping that these letters may have answered some of the questions. To be sure you have this information, below is a summary that I hope will answer some more of your concerns. 

• The Home is being managed by Doutta Galla Aged Care Services. 

• Much of our focus particularly in the last four days, has been spent advocating for and accommodating the transfers of residents to hospitals. These transfers have been handled calmly and thoroughly. 

• With the relocation of 5 Yarraville residents who tested COVID-19 positive to hospital, and the relocation of 16 residents to private hospitals in the last 48 hours, there are currently 26 residents at Yarraville, with enough staff to ensure that they are safe, comfortable and well cared for. 

• With the support of Western Health and with the oversight of the Department of Health (DOH)and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), aged care agencies, and the infection control agency AUSMAT, we have brought in experienced aged care 

staff from nursing and aged care agencies to support our Doutta Galla staff and to replace our regular staff until they are cleared to return to work. 

• We have our most experienced, senior nursing and care staff working at the Home, as well as medical and nursing professionals from Western Health Aged Care Liaison Service. 

• Additional nurses and care staff have been sourced by Doutta Galla through nursing and care agencies and through the Commonwealth Government’s surge workforce processes. There is no doubt that over the weekend, our staffing levels were under pressure, and this was escalated and resolved to some degree. We continue to get staff from various sources, and this continues to be a challenge. 

• The residents who were relocated to private hospitals will also have the care and support they require, until we can welcome them back. We were relieved that some residents were transferred, and we can focus on the care of those residents who remain at the Home. 

• The staffing levels we have now achieved are able to manage the needs of our residents. The enhanced infection control measures (donning and doffing of full PPE when entering a resident’s room) are extremely time consuming and there may still be some delays to some services, particularly in the mornings. We are doing all that we can to ensure these issues are resolved. 

• All staff who tested positive or who were deemed to be close contacts, were immediately quarantined at their own homes. They are reported to be comfortable and are receiving our support. 

• As part of the protective measures put in place, meals have been simplified but are still ample. This will be for a very limited time until we can return to normal catering services. We know that meals are a very important part of the day for our residents and changing this routine has caused some disruption while we undertake these necessary measures. 

• An unfortunate consequence of the decisive advice and direction from the Australian Medical Assessment Team (AUSMAT) to cohort residents in the Home, was that some residents did not have access to their telephone. This was due to the need to temporarily move some residents to other rooms as an interim safety measure. I acknowledge that this has been a distressing outcome for some families during a very busy time at the Home. As soon as we are able, we will move residents still in the Home back to their original room. 

I want to assure our Yarraville families and most importantly our remaining residents that we will look after you. Our residents are wonderful people as are their families – we are a proud community. At Yarraville, we are all used to a friendly, gentle, calm and orderly environment. By moving quickly to protect our residents from this virus, the activity and disturbance of the last week, has caused a temporary sense of confusion and anxiety. Certainly not the way our Yarraville Home or Doutta Galla normally operate. 

Our goal for our residents is to return to the day when they can be with their families and surrounded by familiar faces again (including their regular staff) at the Home. Sadly, the current 

COVID-19 environment just doesn’t allow for that. Watching the impact of this current disruption is just heartbreaking for us all and it has been a very difficult time. 

I once again say that while the situation has not allowed for our usual standards of communication with our residents and families, we will continue to work with you to ensure you are informed and have the information you need. 

We will let you know as soon as possible if there is a change in your or your family members health status. If you have an enquiry or concern about your family member, please call the Home on 9687 8233 or on our dedicated phone line which is 9089 7539. The email address for written questions or concerns is covid19questions@dgas.org.au. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with our residents and families at this difficult time. 

Yours sincerely, 

Vanda Iaconese
CEO