The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is currently presenting a challenge for everyone involved in providing healthcare and residential aged care services. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has classified the disease as a public health incident/emergency.
We are acutely conscious of the importance of strong infection control measures in limiting transmission of infectious disease. Our role as a healthcare provider is to offer advice and implement practice that minimises the risk of infection for our residents and patients.
Castlemaine Health cares for around 155 residents in Thompson House, Ellery House, Penhall and Spencely Hostel. These residents are at a greater risk of infection than the general population and are more vulnerable to serious illness if they do become infected.
Castlemaine Health has always welcomed visitors to our aged care. In normal circumstances we encourage and facilitate a wide range of social and entertainment activities to help residents maintain vital connections with community and loved ones. We are aware of how important these social interactions are to the physical and mental wellbeing of those who live with us.
However, we are now preparing for the health emergency that the coronavirus disease will likely present to our community. We are therefore making a number of immediate changes to our social activity programs and changing our advice to those planning to visit aged care.
Visitors to aged care
With immediate effect, we ask everyone to observe strict rules around visiting loved ones and friends in aged care. These are:
- If you are unwell, do not visit.
- If you have returned from overseas travel, do not visit. While there is specific advice in place from the government about which countries present the greatest risk, we ask all international travelers to postpone their visit regardless of the locations travelled.
- Avoid bringing children and young people into aged care. While we have not issued a ban, we strongly encourage adults and parents to postpone any visits involving children and young people at this stage. The evidence shows that children may be infected while presenting few or no symptoms so we aim to minimise our residents’ exposure to younger family and community members.
- Consider whether the visit is essential. If the visit can be postponed please do so. If not, it is vital to observe all information and follow instructions posted at the entrance of each aged care residence. At this stage, the information focuses on infection control measures but it will be updated as the situation evolves.
Activities and volunteers in aged care
The changes to activities and volunteers are as follows:
- All scheduled visits from schools and kindergartens have been cancelled until further notice.
- Castlemaine Health volunteer visits will likely reduce in frequency in the short-term and may cease altogether indefinitely in the near future. This will be determined in consultation with our volunteers and staff.
We are extremely conscious of how important social interaction with loved ones and visitors are to residents. Our decision to limit programs and restrict visitors is not taken lightly. Our primary concern is the wellbeing of those in our care and we are focused on minimising risk to residents and maintaining the health of our staff to ensure continuity of care.
Expert and detailed advice about Coronavirus disease is being regularly published and updated on the DHHS website. A circular published by the Australian Government Department of Health entitled Information for residents of residential aged care services, their family members and visitors may also be useful reading.
Castlemaine Health is publishing general community advice from the DHHS and Australian Government on our website and our Facebook page.