Increasing rates of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory illnesses are resulting in very high demand for care across all metropolitan health services, particularly in our emergency departments and wards.
In response to the current “winter wave”, the Victorian Government yesterday announced updated pandemic orders and public health recommendations. These included stronger recommendations for mask wearing in public areas, as well a change to the definition of a “recently confirmed case”.
The reinfection period for COVID-19 has been reduced from 12 weeks to four weeks, as recommended by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). This means that people who test positive to COVID-19 will now only be exempt from testing, isolation and quarantine requirements for four weeks, instead of 12 weeks.
At Western Health, we are continually reviewing our COVID strategies – all with the aim of keeping our staff, patients, support persons, carers, visitors and volunteers safe. Today’s bulletin outlines changes to our visitor policy, as well as recommendations for PCR testing for staff.
I’m also pleased to be able to announce today a new initiative offering free meals to staff working night shifts and double shifts. It’s just one way we’d like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our staff during this ongoing pandemic.
FREE MEALS FOR NIGHT-SHIFT AND DOUBLE-SHIFT STAFF
From next Monday, 18 July all Western Health staff working night shifts or double shifts will be able to collect a free dinner at the beginning of their shifts. This follows on from the success of the snack boxes we have been providing to night-shift staff over the past fortnight.
The free nightly meals will consist of:
- choice of a ready-made sandwich or bread roll
- bottle of water
- choice of a cake, slice or muffin
Eligible staff will be able to collect their meals between 8.30pm-11.30pm at the main cafes at the Sunshine and Footscray sites. At Bacchus Marsh meals will be placed in the fridge in the staff room for night shift staff to collect. At Williamstown, meals will be placed in fridges in staff rooms for individual areas.
The meals will be provided 7 nights a week over the coming months. The initiative is being supported by the Victorian Department of Health, in recognition of the extraordinary work of frontline health workers during the pandemic.
CHANGE TO VISITOR RESTRICTIONS
As part of our strategy to minimise transmission of COVID-19, the following visitor/support person restrictions are in place, commencing Friday 15 July:
- One visitor at a time per inpatient (or two support persons for Newborn Services/NICU)
- Visits are to be limited to 2 hours, however, the duration may be extended with the approval of the Unit Manager or AHA in situations where:
- the visit is related to end of life care;
- the visit involves the parents or caregivers of a child, to attend the birth of a child or for other compassionate reasons; or,
- the visitor is able to provide care or support to the patient (eg. assisting with feeding, settling confused patients, etc.)
- No visitors aged under 16 years are permitted, unless:
- they are the parents of a hospitalised child or baby; or
- they are visiting a patient who has a life-threatening medical condition or is receiving palliative care and they are the child, grandchild or sibling of the patient.
For full details, please refer to the most recent Visitation QRG here.
CONFIRM POSITIVE RAT WITH A PCR TEST
With recent changes to eligibility for PCR testing at community sites, Western Health staff are encouraged to attend the Sunshine COVID Testing Clinic for confirmatory PCR testing as they may not meet the criteria for a PCR test in the community.
Please continue to follow the COVID guidelines below, to help protect ourselves and each other from COVID and influenza:
1. Mask mandates continue, with N95 masks being compulsory in clinical areas and surgical masks being mandatory in shared non-clinical areas. Staff who are required to wear a N95 mask in their role should continue to wear one even in non-clinical areas, in meetings and shared office spaces.
2. Don’t come to work if you have COVID-19 or flu symptoms
3. Avoid face-to-face meetings whenever possible. If face-to-face meetings are required, wear masks at all times, avoid eating and drinking in meetings and reconsider the number of people who need to be in the room. Information on COVID-safe education, training and research can be found here
4. Socially distance from each other whenever possible
5. When not at work, the Chief Health Officer recommends you wear masks at indoor venues and when it’s not possible to socially distance.
Executive Director Operations (Acting)