There’s no doubt that the past few days have been difficult. It’s been hard for everyone to see the cases of community COVID transmission continue to increase in Victoria, as well as the extension of lockdown and other restrictions.
Today at Western Health, we have become aware that a staff member on Ward 2 East at Footscray has tested positive for coronavirus. This staff member worked on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 August (7am-4pm both days). The Infection Prevention Team are currently identifying all close contacts – both staff and patients. Further detail regarding this is outlined below.
Today I would also like to provide you with some reminders and reassurance of the work we have done in preparation for any surges in hospital demand. I am very confident that we, as a health service, have the right plans in place as we prepare for the expected increases in infection rates. Ever since the initial outbreak of COVID in early 2020, Western Health’s executive and leadership teams have been devising – and continually refining – our COVID-response plans. We’ve looked at everything from PPE and physical-distancing strategies, right through to air-flow analysis and surge planning. Our divisional directors and clinical services directors have recently reviewed our already very detailed surge plans. Thanks to the hard work of so many of you, we are well prepared and our systems are in place.
In the bulletin below, I’ve highlighted some important points that cover the basics of what we can all do as individuals to keep each other safe, and also what’s being done at an organisational level. Please take a moment to read through.
Most importantly, please remember to look after yourselves and each other. It’s been a very big 18 months and unfortunately there’s still some way to go. We will all respond differently to the challenges we’re facing, but let’s remember that together we can get through this.
We have become aware today that a staff member on Ward 2 East at Footscray has tested positive for coronavirus. This staff member worked on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 August (07.00- 16.00 both days).
The Infection Prevention Team are currently identifying all close contacts – both staff and patients.
If you have attended the ward during these times without appropriate PPE – eye protection, N95 mask – and visited the tea room between the times on 9-10am and 1.30-2.30pm both days please contact the Infection Prevention team at WHCOVIDContactTracing@wh.org.au
Please include the following detail in the email:
o Name, position and contact number
o PPE you were wearing, how long you were on the ward, and at what time.
Staff without symptoms who have attended the ward during these times wearing appropriate PPE are strongly encouraged to attend the FH asymptomatic testing clinic. If you do not have symptoms you do not need to isolate awaiting results.
As is the case always, any staff members who are experiencing symptoms should not attend work and should attend the Sunshine Hospital COVID Testing Clinic and present for immediate testing and notify Infection Prevention.
As our head of infectious diseases Dr Marion Kainer says, vaccination is our way out of this pandemic. It’s also the key to keeping ourselves, and our loved ones, as safe as possible.
If you haven’t already been vaccinated, you can make a booking here.
Managers are able to access the COVID Vaccination Update report, which details staff uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine and provides information on how you can support your staff.
The following visitation rules currently apply:
- One visitor allowed for permitted reasons only (excluding birthing, parents of children and end of life care)
- Each visit limited to two hours maximum (excluding birthing, parents of children and end of life care)
- No children under 16 (unless they are the parent of a child or it’s related to end of life care for a parent)
Full details can be found in the visitation QRG.
Western Health currently has “SCOVID” wards, which are dedicated to caring for patients who are suspected of being COVID positive/ at risk of COVID and which are following strict infection prevention protocols. These wards are:
Footscray – Wards 2C and 2D
Sunshine – Wards 3F and 2G
Under the Department of Health’s COVID streaming plan, people who are confirmed COVID positive and who require inpatient care (as well as all residents of hotel quarantine) are being streamed to the following services:
- General High Acuity Services: Alfred Hospital, Box Hill Hospital, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Northern Hospital
- Specialist High Acuity Services: The Royal Children’s Hospital, The Women’s Hospital, Monash Medical Centre Clayton (obstetric services)
- Lower Acuity Services (including for aged care residents): Epping Private Hospital, Latrobe Private Hospital
This means that when it is clinically safe to do so, COVID-19 positive patients requiring hospital care will be transferred by Ambulance Victoria to one of the above services.
All low-risk and high-risk suspected COVID-19 patients outside of hotel quarantine will continue to be managed at their local health service, which for us includes the wards outlined above.
For low-risk and high-risk suspected COVID-19 patients being treated at one of our hospitals, if a COVID-19 positive result is received, the patient should be considered for transfer to one of the selected sites when it is clinically safe to do so. All decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the infectious diseases team.
Please be reassured that patient safety will always be the top priority. For example, if a patient in the community has a time-critical illness, they will be transferred to the closest appropriate hospital.
An important component of our surge planning is the re-training and upskilling of nursing staff for our intensive care units (ICUs). Just as we did last year, we are once again asking nurses who interested in either upskilling or re-training (if you already have experience) to please come forward. Our education teams can provide training.
Daily attestations have never been more important. Please ensure you fill out the attestation before every shift, taking the time to read the questions as these can change regularly.
If you have any symptoms, please do not come to work and get tested.
Asymptomatic testing continues to be available at the Sunshine COVID Testing Clinic and Footscray Hospital Private Consulting Rooms. Details here.
Tea and break rooms have been identified as key areas of risk, given staff remove their PPE to eat and drink. Please follow these guidelines:
- Complete the breakroom logs every time you use a tea room, with detail down the minute you entered and left. This information is essential for effective contact tracing by our Infection Prevention team.
- Stick to the density limits. One way of doing this is by staggering breaks.
- Adhere to safe use of tea rooms and break areas as outlined in the Use of Break and Rest Areas QRG.
All staff working in clinical areas across all Western Health sites are required to wear an N95/P2 mask and eye protection (face shield preferred). This includes staff working in the community across various settings, regardless of location, and includes staff at our testing centres and vaccination hubs.
Staff working in public areas or administration areas where patient care is not being delivered will continue wearing surgical masks and staff alone in an office with the doors closed are still exempt from wearing masks. For staff working in shared areas (ie. where patients are being treated in administration areas), please err on the side of caution and wear an N95 mask and eye protection.
Please re-familiarise yourself with the PPE educational resources on our PPE site which include posters and videos for staff specifically for N95/P2 masks. Please read the Fit Checking QRG and remember to fit-check your N95/P2 masks at the start of every shift to ensure a proper fit. Staff should remember that unless masks are damp or soiled, they should be worn for the duration of a clinic or shift, or until a break is taken (whichever is shorter in duration) or after performing an Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP), or when in close proximity to an Aerosol Generating Behaviour (AGB). Review Table 4 of the PPE guidelines here for details on what constitutes an AGP or AGB.
If you haven’t been fit-tested for your N95/P2 mask please make a booking through these links JKWC JKWC1 WCHRE, Sunshine Footscray. If you can’t find a well-fitting N95/P2 mask while you wait for your fit-testing appointment, please wear a surgical mask with a face shield to keep yourself safe. Please refer to this process for escalating concerns regarding a poorly-fitting N95/P2 mask. For any questions regarding fit-testing please email email@example.com or for urgent queries, call Helen Morton on 0421 977 979.
Our PPE supply teams are working around the clock to ensure enough of the right type of PPE is delivered to staff. Sometimes, different types of N95 masks (various brands) or isolation gowns (blue and white ones) will be delivered or used during fit-testing. All PPE supplies are checked by our PPE team and this is the stock we receive from the state supply centre. We appreciate staff being patient during this process and want to reassure you that the PPE brands we deliver are appropriate and safe for use. In the case of masks, this is why regular fit-checking is important.
More details can be found in the Western Health PPE guidelines.
Contacting staff enquiries
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following detail:
- Work location
- Exposure site and date/ Enquiry Reason
- Contact number/s