Doutta Galla COVID-19

 8 August 2020 

Dear Family Member, 

Today has been another difficult day for us all. We understand that you are anxious about the care and wellbeing of your family member. This will be a long update, and it may repeat earlier advice, but I hope it will answer more questions. 

As soon as we were informed that a staff member had tested positive to COVID-19, staff began wearing full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the Home was immediately locked down. We advised the relevant Government authorities and enacted our emergency response plan which included asking residents to remain in their rooms so that care and support could be provided individually. Close contact tracing then occurred and staff who had come into close contact with the staff member who tested positive were advised and immediately removed from the rosters. The Home received a deep clean immediately. Daily deep cleans have continued since then, as well as touch point and additional cleaning. Testing for residents and staff was arranged as quickly as was possible. 

As advised last night, over the past several weeks we have been advocating strongly for hospital transfers to occur for any resident who tested positive to COVID-19. We were successful in getting the first four residents who tested positive transferred to hospital. The next round of testing resulted in an increase in the number of positive cases. This came as a shock to us, given the immediate action in applying our infection control measures. 

We know some of you have been trying to get in touch with your family member today. We have had a team of Doutta Galla staff making calls and they have been able to contact many of you and provide you with some of the information you are seeking. I understand that we may have missed some call backs, and I apologise for that. Of course, we understand that many different members of the family are wanting to get that information personally, but we are relying on families to share information with each other. We have also been keeping in contact and doing welfare checks with COVID-19 positive staff, many of whom will be known to you. 

Some of you have asked why you have had difficulty speaking to the staff on site and are not getting immediate notification of any changes. I thought it might be helpful for you to get a better understanding of what’s been happening at the home today and why this might be the case. 

The priority today has been the care of our residents. Residents have been seen by the Western Health Aged Care Liaison Team today. They were at the home from 9.30am until 4pm, working alongside staff to review our residents. 

The Australian Medical Assessment Team (AUSMAT) consisting of four senior nurses were on site all day and will be back again tomorrow. Their focus is to review the Home and to make decisions about cohorting residents. This means that AUSMAT has decided that 

positive and negative residents should be housed separately as much as possible. The decision as to how the ‘cohorting’ will happen is also made by AUSMAT. In addition, we have had a Doutta Galla Infection Control Specialist nurse working alongside the team. 

This has been difficult and as you can imagine many residents are not keen to be moved. However, it is designed to provide protection and safety for all the residents living in the Home. As well, staff need to clean and gently ‘pack up’ rooms of our residents so, that with our assistance, they can return to their own room once the Home is cleared. Vacated rooms also need a ‘deep’ clean before a different resident can go in. 

Moving rooms is not what we would prefer as they cannot have all their belongings around them, however it is not a choice we can make at this time. Additionally, we have been asked to remove some of the furniture and to cordon off common areas for infection control and so that there is no temptation for people to gather. Staff at the Home have been with residents today assisting them and comforting them whilst all the activity that is occurring. 

An additional chef was at the home today, and residents were provided with hot porridge (and as I understand ‘close to’ hot toast) at breakfast. Mealtimes are now staggered to ensure residents receive hot homemade meals from the kitchen as they are delivered to their rooms, and assistance with meals is there for those who require it. Lunch today was chicken schnitzel with vegetables and rice pudding. This evening dinner was vegetable soup and spaghetti Bolognese (and one of our residents had McDonalds delivered to her!). 

You many not realise this but staff need to ‘don’ (put on) and ‘doff’ (take off) the PPE (which includes face shield, mask, gloves, gown, and booties with sanitating in between) each time they attend to a resident. This can equate to about 14 changes per day per resident. As well they need to change each time they go to the bathroom, have a break or need to answer the phone. They also need to sanitize whatever equipment they have touched (such as phones, iPads and computers). This is why today we have had staff off site make calls, and also why it has been more difficult for some residents to make contact with you. Otherwise staff would spend a greater part of today putting on and taking off their PPE when the priority is to support the residents. We are trying to get more staff so that residents will be able to resume direct contact with you. 

With the resignation of Sam Kurne, the Yarraville Village Manager one of our experienced Residence Service Managers, Alex Bolek has taken over the role for this time. As well our General Manager Robyn Simpson has been at the home since Friday. Robyn was previously at our Footscray Home where an outbreak has, and is being, managed. 

As I informed you last night, we had a Social Worker commence with us yesterday and she will be available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week, for families as well as residents. Please let us know by return email if you would like to make an appointment to talk to the Social Worker. 

We have been working closely with the Department of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Unit to have the Home operating to fight and eliminate this virus. They have also been assisting with arranging extra staff.

I hope this has answered some of your general questions. If you have an enquiry or concern about your family member, please call the home on 9687 8233, and we ask for your patience, as we will get back to you as soon as we are able. The email address for written questions or concerns is covid19questions@dgas.org.au. 

Each day sees a new challenge in the fight against this virus. We are needing to make quick decisions in the interests of our residents. They are paramount in our thoughts and every resource we have is being provided to ensure we make the right call at the right time. 

We understand this is a very distressing time for everyone involved and we are doing everything we can to protect your loved one from this virus. 

Yours sincerely 

Vanda Iaconese
CEO
Doutta Galla Aged Services