COVID-19 & Infection Control

COVID-19 & Infection Control

St Vincent’s Response to COVID-19

There have been few other times in history as difficult for our elderly as the COVID-19 pandemic. At St Vincent’s, our staff and residents have lived through the pain, isolation and fear of the pandemic together. We understood full well its devastating impact, and we took action as a result. St Vincent’s implemented measures that mitigated the impact of the pandemic and that went above and beyond expectations.

Implemented measures

  1. We formulated an outbreak management plan complete with government advice as well as additional support from our hospital connection with St Vincent’s Health Australia. (See a comprehensive list of the plan further down this page).
  2. We introduced an award-winning visitor booking to ‘Track-and-trace' anyone who entered one of our sites AND ensure that every staff member and visitor followed mandatory protocols for flu vaccinations and physical distancing.

  3. When the COVID situation was dire in Melbourne and the government couldn’t provide adequate testing, our connection to St Vincent’s Health Australia assisted us to provide additional testing for residents and staff.

  4. We maintained on open line of communication with families sending over 159,000 emails, 292,000 SMS and answered over 71,000 calls (2020-2021).
  5. We gathered feedback on how families were managing lockdowns and other restrictions and tailored our care to better facilitate their needs in line with government directives.
  6. We had direct phone lines for families to lifestyle teams to help them conduct facetime calls, phone calls and anything else to keep them connected.
  7. We increased our investment in lifestyle teams so that even though residents had restricted access, they could still have a meaningful life as much as possible.

At St Vincent’s, we’re always looking for ways to keep families connected to residents and to keep our clients safe. 

Not only do we communicate clearly and transparently with our community, above all else, our connection to St Vincent’s Health Australia puts us above and beyond in expertise when it comes to infection control in aged care. We do not take shortcuts in the care of our residents, clients and families.

St Vincent’s clinical obligations and process

At St Vincent’s we closely adhere to all the health directives from relevant Federal and State Health Departments. At St Vincent’s we follow national guidelines developed by the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) for COVID-19 infection prevention and control in residential care facilities in Australia.

How we handle Infection Prevention & Control (IPC)

  • We use a risk assessment process to ascertain and manage the risk of infection and apply a range of IPC measures using the hierarchy of controls
  • We provide information about routine IPC to staff, residents and visitors as appropriate
  • We train all staff, including agency and short-term contract staff, in basic IPC practices including standard and transmission-based precautions:
    • When they begin working at the facility
    • At regular intervals – annually or more frequently, as required, such as when the risk of an outbreak is higher due to a community outbreak
    • Training is appropriate to a staff’s respective roles and, at a minimum, includes hand hygiene, cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene, and the correct use of appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

What we routinely do to limit the risk of infectious disease

  • Our staff do not come to work if unwell
  • We limit unnecessary movement of residents within the facility
  • We limit movement of staff between facilities, including implementing single site workforce arrangements, where appropriate
  • We strongly recommend annual influenza (and COVID-19, when available) vaccination to residents, staff and visitors to residential aged care facilities and in-home care
  • We use standard, contact and droplet precautions (as a minimum) when caring for a resident with a respiratory infection
  • We frequently clean and disinfect (at least daily) floors, surfaces, and frequently touched or dirty objects and surfaces
  • We ensure adequate provision and appropriate use of PPE, especially when caring for a resident with a respiratory infection
  • We strongly recommend cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene for staff, residents (if possible) and visitors
  • We strongly recommend hand hygiene using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser and provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser for staff, residents and visitors

How we prepare for and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks

In preparing for and responding to a COVID-19 outbreak we form an Outbreak Management Team to develop an Outbreak Management Plan. In relation to IPC, the Plan includes: 

  • Easily found internal policies and procedures on routine, standard and transmission-based IPC precautions
  • Advice and on-site risk assessment from an IPC professional
  • How we will endure adequate supplies of PPE, alcohol-based hand sanitiser and cleaning materials
  • How we will ensure staff know and can recognise the symptoms and signs of COVID-19
  • How we will ensure staff have training in IPC procedures (as above), including donning and doffing of PPE.
  • Consider the need to extend the use of PPE if the numbers of cases, contacts and/or resident areas or zones affected increase significantly. This may include using PPE beyond the situations recommended in this document.
  • Include a systematic strategy for detecting cases and managing residents or staff who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • Consider the need for a program of repeat tests for those in quarantine as directed by the public health unit.
  • Ensure daily handover for acute respiratory infection monitoring and outbreak detection for staff performing this task.
  • Notify the local public health unit if an acute respiratory infection or COVID-19 case is suspected.

Visitor restrictions and signage

Movement of visitors into and within our facilities is limited during an outbreak or as per government health directives and physical distancing measures maintained.  

We implement the following IPC precautions:

These restrictions apply regardless of COVID vaccination status of the resident or visitor. 

  • Following, and staying up to date with, relevant advice on outbreak management in high-risk settings and visitor restrictions
  • Screening visitors on entry to the facility for epidemiological (recent travel, contact with a COVID-19 case, attendance at current exposure site as per public health unit advice) and clinical risk factors (acute respiratory infection, fever/history of fever or loss of smell or taste) and do not permit entry to those with epidemiological or clinical risk factors
  • If appropriate, implementing IPC precautions to protect staff and other residents Visiting restrictions may be relaxed in the context of end-of-life palliative care.
  • Encouraging and facilitating phone or video calls, or visits with physical barrier (for example window, balcony or ‘see-through’ fence) between residents and their friends and family members to maintain social contact while visiting restrictions are in place
  • Recording contact details for all visitors to assist with contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak such as the use of QR scan codes
  • Ensuring all visitors, including essential external providers:
    • Visiting only one resident (or staff member).
    • Going directly to the resident’s room or area designated by the residential aged care family, and avoid shared areas
    • Staying 1.5 metres from residents, if possible
    • Using alcohol-based hand sanitiser or wash their hands before entering and on leaving the facility and the resident’s room
    • Using appropriate PPE, as advised by the public health unit
    • Practising cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene

You can read more about St Vincent's response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.

You can find more information on St Vincent’s COVID-19 and infection control on the following link, Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines for infection prevention and control in residential care facilities.

When it comes to infection control, you want peace of mind and with St Vincent’s Care Services you can have it. To see the other ways we keep residents feeling welcome, valued and safe, you can learn more about our aged care services here.