October 7, 2020

Hi everyone,

I am worried that I continue to receive calls and emails from distressed relatives who have been told they are not allowed to visit their loved ones at Western Health. This is of great concern to me and I would ask all staff to please familiarise themselves with our updated visitor guidelines that outline the exemption process for care, support and compassionate reasons.

As with all matters related to COVID-19, Western Health has taken a cautious approach to visitor restrictions. Minimising the risk of transmission to our staff, patients and visitors is paramount. However showing compassion is an important part of providing best care at Western Health. Let’s help facilitate visits by loved ones when appropriate, and please take the time to explain the guidelines to patients and their families when visits are not possible. A reminder that visiting is allowed “for the purposes of providing emotional, cultural, spiritual or social support to the patient that cannot reasonable be provided by that person via electronic or other non-contact means”.

It was pleasing to hear this morning that Victoria has recorded only six new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, and that the number of inpatients at Western Health has dropped to two. As we all know, we’re still in a precarious position. Outbreaks are continuing across the community and it’s absolutely vital that we remain vigilant.

To help you keep updated on the status of any community outbreaks, a list of current outbreaks is available on the Western Health intranet here. This list is updated daily and should be reviewed as part of the screening process by all areas where patients enter the health service or where staff visit patients at home.

Today I’m pleased to let you know that the Daily Staff Attendance Log has now been added to the online Staff Symptom Check (Attestation) Survey. This will be a much simpler process as you will no longer need to fill out the paper-based attendance log when you are on site. From now, all staff members, students and contractors working on-site must complete the Staff COVID-19 Symptom Check & Attendance Log before the start of each shift. A list of FAQs about this all-in-one survey can be found here.

I’d like to thank all staff who have been presenting for asymptomatic testing, which is a key part of Western Health’s strategy for minimising the risk of transmission. We’ve had over 500 asymtomatic staff tests done in the last week- all of which were negative! Asymptomatic testing is available to any staff who are worried, however we have a particular focus on staff working in higher risk areas. Staff working in the following areas are encouraged to participate in weekly testing: Footscray Hospital 2D, 2C and ICU; Sunshine Hospital 2G, 3E, 3F,ICU; and the Aged Care Liaison Service.

Testing is available at:

  • Sunshine Hospital Respiratory Assessment Clinic (SH RAC) – 7 days per week, from 9am – 6.30pm (extended opening hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays:  7.15am – 6.30pm)
  • Footscray Hospital Private Consulting Rooms (PCR) – Wednesday and Friday 7.15am—5pm

Another important component of our strategy for keeping staff safe is our fit testing program, which is progressing very well. So far, more than 75 staff have been fitted for P2/N95 masks by an accredited occupational hygienist. Please remember that even if you have had a “fit test” (as pictured below), it is still very important to perform a “fit check” every time you put on your mask. More details about Western Health’s fit testing program can be found in the bulletin below.

Finally, a reminder that Western Health’s Employee Assistance Program is available to all of you, at any time. This has been an incredibly stressful year and I don’t for a moment underestimate the pressure you have all been under during this pandemic, both personally and professionally. Please seek support if you need it. Our confidential counselling can be accessed by calling 1800 099 444 or emailing work@caraniche.com.au

I wanted to end what has been a long newsletter (sorry!) by acknowledging how far we’ve come and to thank you all for your ongoing dedication and hard work. I hope you’re enjoying the “exceptional worker” care packages that were distributed last week (as pictured below). To me they are absolutely true – you are all essential and exceptional!





Fit testing is under way at Western Health
‘Exceptional worker’ care packages have been distributed to staff

COVID-19 Daily Bulletin

  • Number of Respiratory Assessment Clinic presentations yesterday – all sites: 274
  • Numbers of confirmed COVID-19 inpatients: 2
  • Wards/areas closed due to outbreaks: nil
  • Numbers of staff who have tested positive for COVID 19: 189
  • Numbers of staff who are currently on leave for COVID 19: 3
  • Numbers of staff who have returned to work post COVID 19: 186

Visitor guidelines

The following visitor rules currently apply at Western Health’s sites:

  • one visitor per patient, once a day, for a maximum of two hours, when an exemption is granted for care, support or compassionate reasons
  • our visiting hours are 4pm-8pm
  • two parents, carers or guardians allowed in newborn services and in the children’s ward.

Arrangements for visitors are still to be made by contacting the nurse in charge of the patient’s ward, as some areas cannot allow visitors at this time due to the higher risk among their patients. In addition, names of visitors need to be provided to our staff who monitor entry to our hospitals at this time.

Western Health is taking a cautious approach to visitors as we are caring for a number of COVID-positive and suspected COVID patients across our hospital sites and the risk might be higher than in some other health services. A reminder that visiting is allowed “for the purposes of providing emotional, cultural, spiritual or social support to the patient that cannot reasonable be provided by that person via electronic or other non-contact means”.

The COVID visitor checklist is on the microsite.

Russell's webinar

Missed Russell Harrison’s webinar yesterday? You can catch up here:

Topics covered include:

  • Fit testing
  • Asymptomatic testing for high risk staff
  • Visitation for patients
  • WeLearn rollout
  • Digital CTG
  • Elective surgery load
  • Inspire Awards
  • Research and Best Care conference

Care of women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum

Western Health’s guidelines for the care of women through pregnancy, birth and postpartum during the COVID-19 pandemic have been updated on the microsite. See the QRG here.

Paediatric patients admitted to Children's Ward

Click here to see the updated procedure outlining the admission and management guidelines for children with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 on the Children’s Ward. Information for the parents of our paediatric patients can be found here.

Fit-testing for P2/N95 masks

The Western Health fit-testing program, which is part of our Respiratory Protection Program (RPP), is continues to progress well. It is being conducted by an accredited occupational hygienist working on-site with individual staff to achieve the best fit of the range of P2/N95 mask models. Staff in high-risk roles in high-risk areas are being prioritised.

Please refer to the RPP guideline for more information on the program and an information sheet for staff who have been booked in.

Please also visit the PPE page on the COVID microsite for educational resources, including videos and posters.

COVID-19 Staff Helpdesk

Western Health has a dedicated COVID-19 Staff Enquiries Helpdesk, which is available to both individual staff and managers. Confidentiality is assured.

Email is recommended as the first point of contact where possible:
Emails will be responded to within 24 hours.

Telephone contact: via Switch 8345 6666, choose option 1 for COVID – then request Staff Enquiries Helpdesk.