May 31, 2021

Western Health’s COVID leadership team has been working hard over the weekend as the Victorian outbreak continues to unfold. You will likely be aware that there are now well over 200 listed exposure sites across Melbourne, and that positive COVID cases have been reported at a residential aged care facility in our region.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we are taking an extremely proactive and cautious approach as we respond to the current challenges. I’m incredibly grateful for the high level of clinical expertise we have at Western Health, including our Head of Infectious Diseases Dr Marion Kainer and our Director of the Public Health Unit Dr Finn Romanes. Expert clinical advice is guiding all our decision-making.

Some of today’s key updates and decisions include:

  • Asymptomatic COVID testing for staff:
    • Available at Footscray Hospital TODAY from 1pm-5pm, and Tuesday-Friday from 7.30am-4.30pm. Go to the private consulting rooms, reception area 2.
    • Available at Sunshine Hospital COVID-19 Testing Clinic every day, 9am-6.30pm
    • Testing being arranged for staff at Williamstown Hospital. Details to come.
  • We are again asking all staff who work at workplaces other than Western Health to declare this, as a priority, by speaking with your manager, emailing westernhealthhr@wh.org.au or completing this online declaration https://bit.ly/3fTcLHI
  • PPE is being increased at our vaccination and testing hubs, with all staff now required to wear N95 masks

Further details on all updates can be found in the bulletin below.

I want to remind everyone of the importance of correctly filling out the daily attestation and not coming to work when unwell. We’ve had some recent examples of staff stating they did not have symptoms in their attestations, despite the fact they were symptomatic – and then going to work. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of staff getting testing, and staying home until you return a negative result. I appreciate the dedication of staff during this very busy time, but we simply cannot afford to be putting our colleagues and patients at risk. Please continue to monitor your own health and remain vigilant with hand hygiene, social distancing and PPE.

Importantly, please also continue to monitor the exposure sites. If you or a household contact have been at one of the Tier 1 exposure sites, please follow the directions on the Department of Health website regarding isolation and testing. Do NOT attend work and contact COVID Staff Enquiries at whscovid-19staffclinicenquiries@wh.org.au.

Finally, I strongly encourage staff to consider getting vaccinated, if you haven’t already. It’s one of the most effective tools we have for keeping ourselves and each other safe.

Thanks for keeping updated.



PPE requirements

The minimum PPE requirements for all staff is a surgical mask at all times, plus eye protection (safety goggles or face shields) in all clinical areas. Staff must now wear an N95 mask for any interaction with a patient that has suspected (low risk or high risk), confirmed COVID-19 or is in quarantine.

All staff in Emergency Departments must now wear N95 masks, in addition to other Tier 3 PPE requirements, as they have been designated as high-risk clinical areas. All patients are encouraged to wear masks, where tolerated.

Please review the latest guidelines and PPE Tier poster at this link for more detail.

Please remember infection prevention essentials such as hand hygiene, physical distancing, reducing face-to-face contact where appropriate, and reducing non-essential travel between campuses. Staff should not eat or drink in clinical areas and sign in/out of common staff areas.

If staff need additional PPE, follow this link for instructions. We are also encouraging staff to get fit-tested for their N95 masks, and can make bookings for Footscray here and for Sunshine here.

Asymptomatic testing

Western Health continues to support our staff by providing asymptomatic staff testing. I’d like to remind you that asymptomatic testing is available to any concerned staff members.  We are particularly encouraging any staff who also work in, or provide care to patients from, residential aged care facilities to take up this opportunity.

Asymptomatic staff testing is available at:

  • Footscray Hospital in the Private Consulting Rooms:

– Today, May 31: 1pm –5pm

– Tuesday – Friday – 7.30am – 4.30pm

  • Sunshine Hospital COVID-19 Testing Clinic every day 9am – 6.30pm

Symptomatic staff are encouraged to attend the Sunshine Hospital COVID-19 Testing Clinic for testing.

Movement of staff

Where it does not impact on the provision of essential clinical care, Western Health staff should not work across multiple sites or multiple work areas.

Western Health has reinstituted previous guidance for teams to minimize risk including:

  • Provide consistent staffing for a patient or area, to limit the number of staff who come into contact with a given patient
  • Only healthcare workers who are essential to the delivery of care should enter areas designated for the care of suspected, probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • Consider rostering practices to cohort healthcare workers into sub-teams (e.g. Team A and Team B within a workgroup)
  • Where practical, staff performing non-clinical or non-patient facing roles should continue to work from home in line with public health directions

Further information can be found in the ‘Keeping Safe at Work QRG’ found here.

Working at other workplaces

As many employees may recall, the Public Health Commander previously issued workplace directions where all workers must declare if they are working and/or volunteering at more than one work premises for two or more employers.

We are aware that some Western Health employees may also work in care facilities, such as residential aged care facilities.  The Department of Health guidance requires that, where possible, care facility workers must not work at more than one site.

If your circumstances have changed since you initially completed the online multiple workplace declaration, you must notify People and Culture by emailing westernhealthhr@wh.org.au and advising: your employee number; name of your other employer/s; how frequently you work for the other employer/s and the last date worked for that employer/s.  You must also notify your other employer/s that you work at Western Health.

Alternatively, if you have not completed the online declaration previously, you can do so at the following link: https://bit.ly/3fTcLHI.  The declaration should take no more than 2 minutes to complete.


Closure of prayer rooms and gyms

Unfortunately due to the currently evolving COVID situation in Melbourne the prayer rooms and gyms have been closed until further notice.  There will be further communication advising when these may reopen.

Student placements

Student placements continue to be provided at Western Health with the following new conditions:

  • Students are not permitted to move between campuses/facilities during their placement
  • Students should not be involved in the care of high risk suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. Where possible students should not be allocated to other patients with suspected COVID-19.
  • Any teaching or clinical placement activities that do not require patient contact should be undertaken outside of the health setting or via an alternative method such as videoconferencing or teleconferencing where possible.

COVID Active (Red)

Metropolitan Melbourne is currently rated as Code Active Red under the Department of Health’s new system that helps health services assess the risk of COVID, and guides decisions around important topics such as the use of PPE and visitor restrictions.  More details can be found here.

Support for staff

Western Health’s confidential counselling service is available to all staff and can be accessed by calling 1800 099 444 or emailing work@caraniche.com.au
The Wellbeing and Support section of our COVID microsite is another great resource for us all.