As new data shows almost 60 per cent of the ACT’s COVID-related deaths this year have occurred in residential aged care facilities, one Canberra provider credits its own staff and ACT Health for their support through the crisis.
Goodwin aged care executive manager Clinical and Health Services Tamra MacLeod said it had been a difficult time for those working in the sector.
She said the number of staff required to quarantine after contracting the Omicron virus or being identified as close or high-risk contacts had dramatically increased. Resident cases have risen in line with these increases.
There were 13 aged care facilities with an active COVID-19 “outbreak” in the ACT (as of 18 February), according to the Federal Department of Health.
Seven resident cases and seven staff cases were reported at Goodwin Ainslie (Goodwin House) and four resident cases and 26 staff cases at Goodwin Monash.
In early January, Goodwin publicly confirmed multiple intrusions of COVID-19 to its aged care facilities across Canberra for the first time. In 2021, two residents at its retirement facility – Goodwin Village Ainslie – contracted and recovered from COVID-19.
Several staff members, agency contracted employees and residents tested positive for the virus. It meant residents were quarantined in their rooms to allow contact tracing.
Group activities and dining were temporarily suspended and residents were provided meals and hydration, medication, exercise, medical care and phone/video call contact with families in their rooms.
Goodwin has yet to record a COVID-related death in its facilities.
“The biggest challenge for us was resident wellbeing because it impacted on everyone with the additional restrictions, especially the visitor ones that we put in place,” Ms MacLeod said.
Despite the difficulties, Ms MacLeod said she was grateful for the hard work of staff – required to work in full personal protective equipment (PPE) – and the support provided by ACT Health.
“It’s been a really hard time for staff because they are managing tangible impacts of the pandemic all day at work and then going home and dealing with it in their daily lives too,” she said.
“You just can’t get away from it.”
Ms MacLeod said Goodwin had been asking staff since early January to undertake a daily rapid antigen test as a screening tool. “We test and test, but there is still that chance of someone working while infectious which we need to look out for.”
She attributed the facility’s ability to keep COVID-19 intrusions under control to high vaccination rates of residents and full staff vaccination.
Ms MacLeod said managing COVID-19 had been a constant balancing act.
“We’ve been very clear on just following the guidance.”
As of Friday, 18 February, the Territory had recorded 17 COVID-19 deaths in 2022 according to ACT Health. Ten of these were residents of aged care facilities. Six were aged in their 90s, four in their 80s, one in their 70s, and one was aged 65-69.
On Monday, 21 February, another man in his 80s died of COVID-19 in the ACT.
From 1 January to 15 February this year, 711 deaths in aged care facilities have been recorded across the country.