Community Notice, TTHA 16th. February 2021
It is more important than ever that COVID-19 vaccines are deployed across the broader community with Melbourne presently experiencing the leakage of the UK strain of COVID-19 from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel. We are told this strain is quicker and easier to transmit and more deadly. And with what is now labelled ‘Long-Haul COVID’, no-one wants to get this virus as the effects may be permanent and severe.
It is unimaginable having to live indefinitely under the constant fear of this virus and you definitely don’t want to catch it. Our TTHA ‘family’ clearly doesn’t want to continue living with the fear of this virus, or indeed influenza. Our residents, whether they live in TTHA, are independent or supported by TTHA at home, are amongst the most vulnerable in the community.
Australia is about to commence a massive vaccination campaign against this COVID-19 virus. The timing of this vaccination program has been critical for Australians to gain confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and we now have the benefit of tens of millions of doses already having been administered around the world without unexpected outcomes.
It is up to all of us to make our individual decisions whether to vaccinate or not. I know that some people have legitimate medical reason why they should not have any of these vaccinations and that is fair enough. Dr. Irene Kemper is a TTHA Board Member and co-author of this notice and has convened a specialist Infection Control Sub-committee of the TTHA Board meeting fortnightly since the beginning of this pandemic. It is important that discussions around vaccinations and this COVID-19 vaccination in particular are factual rather than emotional or opinion/personal preference based. Irene has explained to us that, unlike the way vaccines were made years ago, there is no live COVID-19 virus in the vaccine and no egg product is used. The vaccines trigger an immune response that encourages our own immune systems to identify the COVID-19 spike protein and produce antibodies. At this stage it is not yet known whether the vaccines inhibit transmission of the virus as their deployment is so recent, but it will protect us from severe disease and potentially death from this virus.
There are however those who simply object to being vaccinated. In Australia, where the vast majority do get vaccinated, the small minority of anti-vaccination people benefit from the level of community cover vaccines provide. However, if enough people fail to be vaccinated, the general benefit of community protection will be heavily compromised and both Influenza and COVID-19 (and its variants) will continue to circulate and infect our community. The broader the reach of these vaccines, the better the protection for all of us.
During the peak of the first and second waves of COVID 19 in Australia, the Federal Government mandated the influenza vaccine for all Aged Care workers and visitors. This mandate recently expired and the Federal Government does not intend to mandate either the COVID-19 or influenza vaccines in the future.
TTHA will follow the public health recommendations and so not mandate vaccinations. This is also the general approach of the aged care industry. This has been a difficult decision to make as the mandated Influenza vaccine has seen virtually no influenza in aged care and the community during 2020. We never-the-less expect a very high level of vaccination amongst our staff, residents and visitors in the future as it has been in the past and we sincerely hope and ask that you all, where possible, get vaccinated. People visiting TTHA will be asked during registration on their current vaccination status, but it will not be a condition of entry.
The COVID-19 vaccine will commence roll-out across Australia on the 22nd of February and aged care residents and workers will be amongst the first to receive the opportunity to vaccinate.
All of us will have the opportunity to vaccinate over coming months and we sincerely hope that all of our community capable of being vaccinated do so as soon as it is available.
Paul English Dr. Irene Kemper
Chairman, TTHA Board & Convenor Infection Control Sub-committee
TTHA COVID19 UPDATE – 29th July 2020
We are all experiencing unprecedented times with the threat to our health, well being and lives from the COVID19 virus. The health authorities identified aged care as high risk due to the vulnerable health status of the elderly and having witnessed the terrible experience that aged care in other parts of the world had recorded.
Whilst our Federal and State levels of Government recognised this risk back in March, the growing exposure of aged care first in Sydney and now in Melbourne has focused government and community attention on this sector. We of course have our own interest in Aged Care through Tabulam and Templer Homes for the Aged (TTHA). The purpose of writing to you is to inform you of the actions TTHA has and continues to take to protect the well being of our Residents.
Firstly, to date we have no recorded cases of COVID19 amongst our Residents or Staff. There are however a number of aged care facilities that have recorded a case of the virus and a number of homes that have serious outbreaks having infected dozens of Residents and recording an increasing number of deaths.
TTHA, like all Victorian Aged Care facilities is in lockdown. Our Board and Management have generally implemented measures ahead of those mandated by the Federal Government. The Federal Government has responsibility for Aged Care from a funding and regulation perspective. Unfortunately, statements from politicians and the media about the competence of private aged care (of which TTHA is a member) are gross generalisations and add to the stress of our staff and residents. TTHA is doing everything humanly possible to keep our residents safe but this can only be done within the industry framework and funding provided by Government.
The following are measures currently in place at TTHA:
- We have an Infection Control Committee that meets regularly to implement and continually review processes and readiness to prevent or deal with infection entering TTHA.
- The new Reception is the single point of entry for visitors to the site during working hours, and all visitors are screened.
- Visits to Residents is restricted to one person a day for a maximum of one hour.
To visit you must:
- provide a document confirming that you have had the current influenza vaccination;
- answer a questionnaire to assess your risk of being exposed to a community transmission;
- have your temperature taken (you must record <37.5 degrees Celsius);
- wash/sanitize your hands and keep 1.5m physical distance;
- have made an appointment prior to arrival at reception;
- only spend time in your Residents room and not occupy common areas.
- TTHA has implemented a policy for part-time and casual employees that required individuals to only work and take shifts at TTHA rather than at multiple sites. If this meant a person had to chose between TTHA and another provider, then TTHA endeavours to increase that employees’ hours to compensate. We attempt to avoid the use of Agency staff but sometimes have no choice when a number of rostered employees call in sick at short notice. Staff are also screened at the beginning of each shift.
- We have progressively built up our stock of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and now have a full stock of face masks, face shields, goggles, safety glasses, gloves and gowns. There is a lot of talk in the media about a lack of PPE in aged care facilities but this is definitely not the case at TTHA.
- Face masks are mandatory for all staff whilst in the facility.
- The moment a Resident is presenting with respiratory symptoms, full PPE is implemented and that Resident is isolated in their room.
- We have prepared the upper level of the de-commissioned Altersheim building as an infection isolation zone in the event a positive diagnosis is made for a Resident. Should this facility be required, the Resident will be immediately and temporarily relocated to the isolation zone until they return a negative COVID 19 test result. Dedicated staff will service this area and no interaction will occur with the rest of the facility. Meals will be provided on disposable plates and cutlery and directly binned as will all used PPE etc. Residents may also be hospitalised depending upon the severity of their infection and in accordance with their ‘end-of-life’ plan.
- No group activities are possible for the time being. Activities staff are providing one-on-one contact (suitably distanced and protected), are facilitating zoom, whatsapp, facetime etc. sessions with family members.
- Residents are also being taken out in the fresh air for some exercise on a rotation basis.
- Restricted use of dining and lounge facilities adhering to social distancing requirements.
- Non-urgent contractors are being deferred for any work in which access in our buildings is required.
- Additional cleaning and sanitising twice daily of high touch points is in place, along with normal cleaning routine.
- COVID19 screening tool for residential aged care residents daily, which involves checking residents temperatures daily
- We continue to implement changes and update our families and community based on the most recent advice available from the Department of Health.This virus has almost exclusively entered aged care through staff members who are ‘asymptomatic’, that is showing no symptoms of the disease. We are grateful that our staff have identified themselves when having any of the symptoms of this virus. However, if a person feels well and has none of the typical symptoms, it is nobody’s fault, nor is it possible to prevent the virus from entering a facility. This is why personal hygiene, face masks, eye protection and full PPE (if a resident is unwell) is so important and why TTHA takes such a strong position on these actions. Such pre-cautions may prevent transmission of the virus to other staff and residents and is at the front-of-mind for all in TTHA.We are sure you’ll know the symptoms of COVID19 but we repeat them below for completeness:Most common symptoms:
- dry cough
Less common symptoms:
- aches and pains
- sore throat
- loss of taste or smell
- a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toesSerious symptoms:
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- chest pain or pressure
- loss of speech or movementWe hope that the above provides you with a sense of the work and focus occurring within TTHA to keep our Residents safe and healthy. Rest assured that TTHA has implemented all possible measures to protect Residents and Staff. Should through unforeseeable circumstances this virus get into TTHA, we have plans to rapidly respond to contain any outbreak and care for the sick in isolation from the rest of the Home. It is a stressful time for all concerned and we can be very proud of all our staff who continue to provide excellent care for our elderly.Eva Simo Paul English
TTHA CEO TTHA Chairman of the Board