Today I want to say thanks and acknowledge the remarkable response we enacted throughout October in response to a surge in COVID cases and demand for hospital and community based care. We supported the opening of four dedicated COVID wards, four ICU pods, SCOVID wards and models of care to support our community who required access to dialysis, chemotherapy and other chronic diseases regardless of their COVID status. We also expanded our home based care program, at one stage caring for over 300 members of our community who were COVID positive in the home environment with remote monitoring and home visits.
I also wanted to highlight the importance of all of us remaining vigilant at Western Health. While it’s been pleasing to see the numbers of COVID cases across Victoria decreasing slowly, the risks remain high – and we continue to be ready to respond to another increase in demand for hospital care anticipated to be late December and January.
This morning, we became aware of exposure in several maternity areas at Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s. Any staff who attended tea rooms specified below are asked to complete this contact tracing questionnaire to assist in your risk assessment:
- Staff tea room Level 3 JKWC Birthing (opposite room 19-20) – Friday, 5 November, 2pm-3.30pm and 7pm -8pm;
- Staff tea room Level 3 MAC (near bathroom) – Saturday, 6 November, 2pm– 3.30pm and 6pm -7.30pm;
- Level 7 Maternity Ward main tea room – Sunday, 7 November, 10am – 12pm and 2pm -3.30pm
I also want to let you know that a number of Western Health staff members have tested positive to COVID in recent weeks through community transmission. This is not unexpected, given the end of lockdown and the lifting of restrictions more generally. As of today, there are more than 15,000 active cases across the state. For this reason, Western Health and all other Victorian health services continue to operate under the COVID Peak risk rating. The Department of Health’s COVID risk rating system guides our decisions around important topics such as the use of PPE and visitor restrictions.
Our COVID leadership team is continually monitoring all aspects of our COVID response. We are working to minimise restrictions, wherever safe and practicable – and always in line with Department of Health guidelines and the expert advice of our infection prevention and infectious diseases teams. For example, last week we were able to re-open the EFM gyms at both Sunshine and Footscray last week (to fully vaccinated staff members only). In addition, plans are in place to:
- Open Prayer rooms for multiple staff access in line with physical distancing requirements. They will remain closed to visitors at the current time.
- Increase access to face-to-face education for mandatory training, skills based training, competency assessment and workshops. Education and training should not involve cross campus travel or multiple teams from different clinical areas. (Training and education that can be provided via non face-to-face methods should continue in this manner).
Most other restrictions, such as visitation limits and cross-campus travel, will remain at current levels for the short term. Keeping our patients, staff and communities during the current COVID outbreak remains the absolute priority.
Getting vaccinated remains our most effective tool against COVID, and I’m really pleased to say that about 1700 staff members have had a third dose or booster of the COVID vaccine since it was approved by ATAGI and made available at Western Health. That’s a fantastic effort and I encourage everyone to take up this opportunity.
Remember that staff don’t need an appointment for COVID vaccinations. You can “walk in” to any of Western Health’s hubs to get your booster jabs, or you can book in over email. The pop-up at Footscray Hospital’s Mavis Mitchell Room is also open until 4pm today. Thanks to our vaccination team, led by Shane Crowe and Lisa Smith, for their ongoing efforts to keep our staff, families and communities safe through vaccination. More information on our vaccination program can be found here.
Thanks for keeping updated and thanks again for being a health service that collectively worked together to ensure we are able to provide the very best care to our community possible.
Confirmed COVID ward inpatients at Western Health: 53
Confirmed COVID ICU inpatients at Western Health: 7
Confirmed COVID patients receiving Western Health care in the community: 138
COVID tests by our testing sites yesterday: 974
Staff accessing surveillance testing yesterday: 525
Vaccinations delivered yesterday by West Metro COVID Vaccinations team: overall (1,104,494) and yesterday (1780)
Contacting COVID staff enquiries
Staff are reminded to contact the COVID-19 Staff Enquiries Helpdesk if they:
- Have attended a Tier 1 site
- Live with someone who is COVID Positive
- Live with someone who has had a close contact with someone who is COVID positive
- Are returning from international travel
Advice and precautions, including surveillance testing and PPE, is recommended following an individual risk assessment
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following detail:
- Work location
- Exposure site and date/ Enquiry Reason
- Contact number/s
QR codes in tea rooms
QR codes must be used every time you enter a tea or break room. As our head of infectious diseases, Dr Marion Kainer, has said many times, break rooms are the highest-risk areas in our hospitals because this is where we take off our masks to eat and drink. We have reports of significant numbers of staff not using the QR codes in break areas, which is adding to the workload of your colleagues in the contact tracing team. Please remember to check in every time.
Fit testing and fit checking
Please remember to do a fit check every time you use an N95 mask. A fit test will tell you what masks are most suited to you in achieving a suitable seal; however, a successful fit check will tell you that you have put it on correctly and it is protecting you. That is why it is so important to fit “check” your mask every time you put it on. Instructions on how to do this can be found here on our COVID microsite.
What's new on the microsite?
Click here to see the latest QRGs, clinical guidelines and other updates uploaded to the microsite.
Staff being aware of the PPE requirements for their particular role and workspace within Western Health is vital. Please check the PPE poster and review the overall guidelines in the PPE section of our COVID-19 microsite.
Click here to read the most recent update by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer.