Previous Health Updates - Helping Hand

Previous Health Updates


Read previous updates about COVID-19 below


Update for residential care
The COVID-19 outbreaks happening in Victoria and New South Wales mean a significantly higher risk of COVID-19 cases in South Australia. The situation interstate, particularly what is occurring in aged care homes, is a daily reminder that we cannot afford to become complacent about COVID-19. South Australia does have a comprehensive plan in place. SA Health holds weekly aged care forums with CEOs from aged care providers (including Helping Hand’s CEO Chris Stewart) as well as peak bodies and advocacy groups. These forums provide a platform for consistent communications and information sharing.

Visiting our residential care homes
Thank you for your ongoing patience with the on arrival screening processes and visitor restrictions that we have in place in our residential care homes. Screening everyone who comes into our residential care homes remains our best line of defence in minimising the risk of an outbreak. As well as recording names and contact details, we are also recording phone numbers and email addresses every time you visit. If needed, this information will be shared with SA Health to help with contact tracing. Screening also helps us know how many people are in the home at the same time, so we can effectively follow social distancing guidelines.

When residents need to leave the home for an appointment or outing, please remember to let a member of staff know beforehand. We have a process in place to record who is leaving the home and we will work with residents and family members to keep them as safe as possible in the community. We continue to refine our screening processes and will keep you informed of any changes.

It is not too late for your flu shot
Spring may be around the corner, but you will still benefit from a 2020 seasonal influenza vaccination. This is also compulsory for anyone entering a residential aged care home in Australia. Please remember to bring your Helping Hand 2020 Flu Vaccination Card with you every time you visit one of our residential care homes and to keep it with you for the duration of your visit.

Need more support at home?
We can assist by:

  • adding some extra visits or topping up your services
  • delivering meals to our North Adelaide retirement living clients
  • providing extra assistance with meals by calling our home care office on 1300 444 663
  • offering respite in your home or ours
  • providing assistance with setting up technology, eg Zoom or Skype.

Updated border restrictions
From Wednesday 29 July, only essential travellers will be able to enter South Australia from Victoria. South Australians will no longer be able to return to South Australia from Victoria until further notice. Travellers from the Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are able to enter South Australia directly without restriction. Travellers from the ACT and New South Wales, other than essential travellers, will be required to:

  • self-quarantine for 14 days after entering South Australia, and
  • submit for COVID-19 testing on:
    • the day of arrival to South Australia, and
    • the twelfth day after arrival.

Stay in touch with latest government updates at www.covid-19.sa.gov.au

Let’s keep working together
Now more than ever before, we all need to work together and follow all the COVID-19 safety guidelines:

  • practice good hand hygiene
  • maintain 1.5 metres distance from others
  • get tested for COVID-19, if you have any of the following symptoms, even if they are mild: fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of smell or a change in your sense of taste
  • do not visit someone if you are unwell or awaiting the result of a COVID-19 test
  • if you are waiting for COVID-19 test results – stay at home and self isolate
  • if you are visiting from interstate (or have family from interstate staying with you), please follow all self-quarantine and testing requirements as detailed in this update.

On Friday 19 June 2020, the State Government amended its Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 6) (COVID 19) Direction. This has allowed us to ease further restrictions as follows:

  • Residents can leave the home and return for any reason. On their return, temperature testing and screening processes will remain in place.
  • Children under the age of 16 years are now able to visit, provided they have had their 2020 influenza vaccination. Babies under six months old are exempt from the vaccination requirement.
  • Weekend visiting hours are extended from 9:00am to 5:00pm. To manage the number of people in our homes at one time, bookings will still be required.
  • Care and support visits are generally limited to one visit per day and for up to two people per visit.
  • Visitors can also use the cafés to catch up with family and friends. However, to maintain social distancing requirements, please remember to reserve a table when you are booking your visit.
  • Visitors coming from the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia or Tasmania are now permitted to visit our homes within 14 days of entering South Australia. Visitors coming from other States are only permitted to visit within 14 days if they are providing end of life support (and they will be required to self-quarantine at all other times).

Bookings will still be required for visits and social distancing, temperature testing, seasonal influenza vaccination requirements and hand hygiene practices, remain in place.

Please call the home directly to book your next visit.

On Monday 11 May 2020, an Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes During COVID-19 was released. The Code sets out an agreed nation-wide industry approach that balances the need for residents to continue having visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, while minimising the risk of an outbreak in a residential care home. Please click here to read the Code.

Helping Hand was already compliant with the majority of the principles of the Code and where necessary we are making the appropriate amendments to our protocols to ensure full compliance. It also takes into consideration the capacity of our homes to safely manage the care home environment amidst the new regulatory and legal obligations associated with the COVID-19 situation.

From 20 May 2020 new visiting hours and services for all residents, including Memory Support Unit residents are as follows:

  • Visiting hours expanded to 10:00am–2:00pm and 6:00pm–8:00pm Monday to Friday and 10:00am–2:00pm on Saturday and Sunday
  • Visits will continue to be by appointment and visiting times increased from 30 to 60 minutes
  • Bookings for visits to be made during business hours only (9:00am–5:00pm, Monday to Friday)
  • Only one visitor, per day, per resident, as nominated by the resident or next of kin, unless there are special circumstances (please refer to note below)
  • 15 minute breaks between bookings to allow time to screen incoming visitors (please arrive 15 minutes before your visiting appointment to complete screening)
  • Additional cleaning of rooms between 10:00am–3:00pm and 6:00pm–8:00pm for residents who have had visitors
  • Hairdressing services to recommence from 20 May 2020
  • Pastoral services to recommence from 20 May 2020
  • Volunteers will be invited to return to residential care homes in their own time and at their own discretion
  • Access to the homes will be via the main entrance (for entry and exit)
  • Visitors will be screened on arrival and have their temperature taken
  • Social distancing and hand hygiene guidelines remain in place
  • Visits to take place in resident’s room or designated outdoor area
  • Social and health group activities remain suspended until further notice
  • Each home will have its own quota for how many visitors allowed on site
  • No one will be permitted to enter a residential care home without proof of 2020 seasonal influenza vaccination (please note this is a legal requirement outside of our authority and exemptions are permitted only in certain defined circumstances)
  • Unless in the case of exceptional circumstances, anyone who meets the criteria below will not be permitted to enter any of our residential care homes:
    • They are 16 years of age or under
    • They have returned to South Australia in the previous 14 days
    • They are currently awaiting the result of a COVID-19 test
    • They have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is also awaiting the result of a COVID-19 test

At Helping Hand, we understand that a 30 to 60 minute time limit, or the ‘one person per visit’ rule, may be a challenge for some residents and visitors. This is especially the case when the visit also involves providing some level of support, ie mealtimes; or relates to end-of-life or other special circumstances. Residential Services Managers and Executive Managers will work with you to develop a compassionate, workable and balanced solution that supports the resident’s particular needs for care and support and is also fair to other residents and the time they are able to spend with their visitors.

The news in South Australia is extremely encouraging, with no new COVID-19 cases reported for some time. While easing restrictions and reintroducing services can feel like a return to normal, we are asking everyone to remain vigilant and observe all the precautions we have in place and follow all directions from staff.

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding.

Thank you for your patience and support over the past few weeks as we continue to navigate through this challenging situation. Today’s update is to share with you the plan moving forward regarding the incremental lifting of visitation restrictions to our care homes. Many of you will be contacted directly by the site over the next day to talk through the process and answer any questions you may have.

It has been an emotional and tough time for many of us. Each of you has made many sacrifices over the past month in the effort of reducing the spread of the virus and keeping family and friends safe.

The aged care sector has been receiving new information on a daily basis. There are at times inconsistencies which we have tried to understand and navigate, while balancing the needs of residents and families. At all times Helping Hand has acted in the best interest of safeguarding those most vulnerable to the virus, the people in our care.

Our position to date comes from understanding how rapidly infection can spread through a care home and the significant effect this can have. From our experience effectively managing outbreaks requires a dedicated and planned risk management approach.

Having said this, with the encouraging recent infection rates across South Australia, we are confident in introducing visits and services back into our sites in a planned and staged manner.

Scheduled visits to our residential care homes will start from Monday 4 May. This gives us the opportunity to ensure all systems are in place and adequate staffing available to support the visits as well as continue with our existing activities and programs. There will be strict conditions around how this is managed, and we ask for your patience, understanding and cooperation. The State Government’s advice is still to restrict to essential visits only, so we ask that you limit visits at this stage to minimise risk.

In response to COVID-19, SAPOL introduced increased restrictions for entry into residential care homes under Section 25 of the Emergency Management Act 2004. These restrictions remain in place – most importantly, any resident who leaves the site, for any reason other than a scheduled medical or dental appointment or a medical emergency, will not be allowed to return to the residential care home.

New visiting arrangements

  • Family and friends will need to call ahead to our administration team to book a time.
  • A maximum of 20 visitors at a time will be allowed in our larger sites (Port Pirie, North Adelaide, Golden Grove, Lightsview, Mawson Lakes, Ingle Farm, Parafield Gardens) and 10 visitors at a time to our smaller sites (Jamestown and Clare).
  • Visiting hours will be between 10am and 2pm, Monday to Friday.
  • We encourage one visitor per resident at a time, however, we will accommodate a maximum of two visitors if essential.
  • Visits must comply with all social distancing recommendations.
  • Visits will be limited to 30 minutes, so that we can ensure that all families are given an opportunity to visit. This will allow us to undertake additional cleaning and preparation between visits.
  • Visits will be restricted to the private room of the resident or in an outdoor designated space.
  • All visitors will be temperature tested and asked to comply with hygiene and social distancing measures during their visit. They will be asked a range of screening questions before they enter and if they are unwell will be asked to reschedule their visitor.
  • Every person entering a care home after the 1st of May must show evidence that they have received the 2020 seasonal flu vaccination. This is legislated by the State Government. They will be issued a verification card which they will need to keep with them for the duration of the visit.
  • Other than an end of life situation, children under the aged of 16 are still not permitted to visit, as per State Government legislation. We are extending this restriction to pets at this stage, due to the unknown risk of cross infection.

On Mother’s Day, there will be additional hours available so that we can safely accommodate the expected demand. Under the new directions from SAPOL, residents will not be able to leave the site for a family visit or social outing.

From mid-May we plan to reopen hair salon services and we are working with contractors to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to reduce any risk.

Once our trial period is completed, and processes are in place and understood, we will be looking at creating additional visiting times in the evenings and weekends. This is a staged plan which will be constantly reviewed and reassessed. We have written to residents and families and friends to ensure they are aware of these new arrangements we have in place to incrementally lift visiting restriction.

During the last few weeks, we have all been asked to make changes to our daily lives and none more so than our residents and their families and friends. Not being able to visit loved ones has challenged everyone.

At a press briefing held on Tuesday 20 April 2020, both the Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer, expressed their concern that some aged care providers have gone ‘over and above’ the recommendations of the National Cabinet. The implication that these aged care providers are shutting people off and locking them away in their rooms does not reflect the intentions behind these decisions, or the way Helping Hand has responded to the challenges of visitor restrictions.

The fact remains that physical isolation remains the most effective way of minimising an outbreak of COVID-19 in aged care homes. Having seen what has happened interstate and overseas, this is a situation we want to avoid. We are acutely aware of stress and impact of physical distancing, particularly for older people in aged care.

Our motivation is solely the health and wellbeing of our residents and our staff. We have made considerable investment and tremendous efforts to ensure residents and families remain connected. I encourage you to keep taking advantage of window visits, FaceTime calls, special deliveries and connecting with family and staff on your community Facebook pages. We are here to help and support you.

Staff are continuing to deliver engaging and vibrant programs to ensure residents are stimulated and fulfilled. As always, in circumstances such as end of life, we will support families to be with their loved ones.

Visitation restrictions will remain in place until the end of the month, however I want to assure you that we are already planning and focusing on how we can support families to visit and services to recommence in our homes when it is safe to do so.

Despite the encouraging statistics over the past few days there is still much we do not know – including the impact of the 2020 flu season.

Flu Vaccinations
With peak flu season approaching, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone to arrange their influenza vaccination.

Medical experts are advising that everyone aged six months and over needs to be vaccinated this year. While a flu vaccination cannot prevent COVID-19, it will eliminate a further potential health threat to the most vulnerable in our community.

From 1 May 2020 the Australian Government has placed a directive, under the Health Management Act, that all staff, visitors and contractors entering a residential aged care home must be vaccinated against seasonal influenza virus.

In response, Helping Hand has developed the following protocols for families and friends, which will be activated once visiting restrictions are lifted:

  1. all visitors will be required to show written proof of their current vaccination prior to entering our care homes
  2. once vaccination records have been sighted and copied, by Helping Hand staff, each visitor will be issued with a personalised verification card, linked to their record
  3. visitors will be required to bring this card with them on subsequent visits and to have the card with them for the duration of the visit.

All visitors need to continue to sign in on entry and exit and following hand-hygiene instructions.

While I appreciate these additional protocols may seem restrictive, I assure you that all staff, contractors and medical practitioners will be following the same procedure. Our focus remains on ensuring a healthy environment for all our residents and this is critically important as we come into winter.

The Government has made exceptions for individuals, who as a result of medical circumstances are not able to have a seasonal influenza vaccination. This includes:

“a person who has a medical contraindication to the influenza vaccine (such as person who has a history of anaphaylaxis or has had Guillain-Barré Syndrome following vaccination, or who is taking check point inhibitor medication for cancer treatment).”

If you are exempt from vaccination, please contact the Residential Services Manager prior to your visit. You will be required to provide evidence of your exemption in the form of a medical note or certificate.

If you have any questions, please contact your care home directly.

Further information is available regarding the National Immunisation Program at: www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-services/flu-influenza-immunisation-service

Thank you again for your patience, support and understanding at this time.

Chris Stewart
CEO

The Board and management have made a decision to extend visitor restrictions to all of our care homes to Thursday 30 April. This decision is not made lightly, and is made in the best interests of the health of our residents and staff.

Staff at our care homes are working creatively and tirelessly to help families and residents stay connected. People are doing ‘window visits’. There are delivery boxes for families to drop off letters and gifts. Families and residents are speaking over FaceTime, and Facebook groups for each home are enabling fantastic two-way exchanges between residents and their families. Thank you to all staff who are embracing new ways to communicate and keeping people connected.

All care homes are still accepting new respite and permanent admissions. Families are being supported to complete paperwork online or in their homes, and residents coming into homes are asked to stay apart from other residents for 14 days and monitored for changes in health.

South Australia Police (SAPOL) has introduced increased restrictions for entry into residential care homes across South Australia. These restrictions fall under the Emergency Management Act 2004 and apply to all residential aged care home operators and their residents.

SAPOL is restricting entry to aged care residential homes to:

  • employees
  • contractors and service providers
  • medical / health / pharmaceutical professionals
  • visits from families and friends relating to end of life care.

In accordance with Section 25 of the Act, no one, including staff, will be able to enter site if they:

  • have returned to South Australia from interstate or overseas in the previous 14 days
  • have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • have a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees (please note everyone entering the site will have their temperature taken on arrival)
  • have an acute respiratory infection
  • are aged 16 years of age or under
  • from 1 May 2020 – have not been vaccinated against seasonal influenza

Most importantly, under these new directions from SAPOL, any resident who leaves the site, for any reason other than a scheduled medical or dental appointment or a medical emergency, will not be allowed to return to the residential care home.

Full details can be accessed from SAPOL’s website www.police.sa.gov.au

Like many aged care providers, Helping Hand has made the decision to also restrict care and support visits for a period of two weeks. We understand this may appear extreme, but we strongly believe that the intense shutdown will help prevent long term devastation for our community.

Many families will feel the impact of visiting restrictions. Please be reassured that our staff are doing their absolute best to create engaging environments for residents.

We encourage you to

  • phone your family member
  • use Facetime if you and your family member has access to this on mobile phones
  • post a letter to your family member
  • call the care home and arrange a ‘window visit’
  • talk to us about any other ideas you may have of communicating.

We have recently created a community Facebook page for each of our care homes. If you have access to a computer and the internet, and use Facebook, we encourage you to join the group for your care home and stay connected. Please refer to a letter received Friday 4 April 2020 which contains the link, or call your home to ask for the link.

Following several Government updates over recent days, Helping Hand has made amendments to the precautionary measures we are taking to support the containment of the COVID-19 virus.

Effective from midday on Friday 27 March, we will put in place several strategies that restrict the movement into, and within Helping Hand’s residential aged care homes.

At this stage, this means:

  • Stopping all external visitors to the site, including family and friends, and those attending allied health clinics on-site.
  • The building will be secured, and all essential visitors will need to use the intercom to speak with a staff member before entering the home.
  • Essential visits and services from external providers, including GPs and dentists, will be screened (asked travel and health questions and temperature tested) before entering the home.
  • Restricting movement within the home including closing gift shops and only allowing take away from the cafes.
  • Postponing visits from non-essential external providers
  • Not holding church services or any group activities.

We are doing all we can to protect residents in our care and appreciate your ongoing support with this public health issue. These restrictions will be reviewed daily, and communication will be given when any changes occur.

We are staying in regular contact with everyone in our Helping Hand community.

This includes: people living in our residential care homes, people receiving services at home, as well as people in our retirement living communities. Where appropriate, we are also communicating regularly with carers, families and friends to keep them informed on our ongoing response to COVID-19, and to advise them of any changes.

Alerts and updates are changing rapidly so make sure you stay in touch or keep visiting our website.

We will be regularly posting latest updates that are specific to Helping Hand on this page. If you have any immediate concerns or questions call us on 1300 653 600. You can read previous updates that we’ve posted by clicking here

Click here to read the latest letter sent to residents and families and friends

Click here to download a flyer available to visitors to our residential care homes

To all our residential care home visitors.

A message from our Chief Executive regarding COVID-19

On the 16th March the federal government encouraged residential aged care homes to limit visits under advice from the Communicable Disease Network of Australia aimed at the prevention and control of coronavirus.

We understand how tough that can be when you want to check in on family or friends, but it’s an important step is reducing the risk to older people in our care. Older people are the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus and we want to make sure we are doing as much as possible to protect them.

So please, no unnecessary visitors. You can keep in touch over the phone or give us a call if you want us to set up a video chat.

If you do need to visit – please be vigilant in washing your hands, practice social distancing and sign-in/sign-out. And of course, please do not visit if you are unwell, have been travelling overseas in the last 14 days or live with someone who has recently travelled overseas.

Helping Hand hasn’t had any reports of COVID-19 at any of our residential care homes and we are working hard to do everything possible to protect those in our community that are most vulnerable. Thank you for supporting us keep our community safe and please contact us on 1300 653 600 if you have any concerns.

It is also important to remember to take care of yourself, both physical health and mental. Be kind and patient with each other and remember to check in with families and friends over the phone.

Alerts and updates are changing rapidly so make sure you stay in touch or keep visiting our website.

CLICK HERE to read the letter that has been sent to all families and friends of care home residents

CLICK HERE to read the letter that has been sent to all our home care clients

SA Health have opened dedicated COVID-19 clinics this week at:

  • Royal Adelaide Hospital
  • Flinders Medical Centre
  • Lyell McEwin Hospital
  • Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

These clinics are for people who have COVID-19 symptoms (especially fever or cough) AND have recently returned from overseas OR have had contact with a known COVID-19 case.

By triaging, assessing, testing and referring suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, these clinics will help take pressure off Emergency Departments in the event of an outbreak and help to minimise the spread of infection. Regional hospitals are also making plans within their Local Health Networks to manage potential COVID-19 cases.

Read more about the Royal Adelaide Hospital clinic by clicking here, and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital clinic by clicking here.

On Wednesday 11 March the nation’s first drive-through COVID-19 collection centre at the reactivated Repat site was opened. Tests can be taken with the patient still in the vehicle, minimising the risk of spreading the infection. This will support GPs who may not be able to collect specimens in their own clinic and will help to reduce pressure on the COVID-19 Clinics.

The Prime Minister has announced a health package designed to protect all Australians, including vulnerable groups such as senior Australians, from the coronavirus (COVID-19). Importantly for the aged care sector, the package includes $101.2 million to:

  • Educate and train aged care workers in infection control, and enable aged care providers to hire extra nurses and aged care workers for both residential and home care.
  • Make available additional aged care staff for deployment to facilities as needed, where an urgent health response is required and to provide extra support for staff and training.
  • Provide additional funding for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to work with providers on improving infection control.

Read more about this funding boost here.

To date, there are no cases of COVID-19 in any of Helping Hand’s metro or regional residential care homes.  We are advising staff and visitors who have the following symptoms not to come to work or visit our homes and to seek medical advice.

  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • headache
  • nausea /diarrhoea or vomiting

If you’re visiting one of our residential care homes, please Click CLICK HERE for more information.

In addition, the Australian Government considers the following countries to be at higher risk for COVID-19:

  • Mainland China
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Republic of Korea

If you are returning from these countries, you need to monitor your health for the next 14 days.

If you are returning from mainland China or Iran you should isolate yourself for 14 days after leaving mainland China or Iran.

If you are travelling from the Republic of Korea, you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the day you left the Republic of Korea.

If you arriving in Australia from Italy, unless you are instructed too, you do not need to isolate yourself but you cannot attend work for 14 days if you work as a health care worker or residential aged care worker.

If you are visiting a Helping Hand residential site, and either you or a close contact have visited Italy or Republic of Korea within the previous 14 days we ask you to not visit any of our residential facilities for 14 days.

If you receive Home Care services or attend any residential sites for community activities and either you or a close contact have visited Italy or Republic of Korea in the previous 14 days please contact us on 1300 444 663 to discuss.

If you or any of your close contacts have travelled overseas anywhere in the previous 14 days and you become unwell with respiratory symptoms, please contact your local GP for further advice.

For Helping Hand staff we will be hosting COVID-19 information sessions on the following dates and locations.

Metro

  • North Adelaide, Grivell Hall, Monday 16th March, 1:30pm – 2:30pm
  • Ingle Farm, Gene Wenham Activities Room, Monday 16th March, 10:30am – 11:30am
Country 
  • Carinya, Clare, Cottage 3, Tuesday 10th March, 11:00pm – 12:00pm
  • Belalie lodge, Jamestown, Pioneer Room, Tuesday 10th March, 2:00pm – 3:00pm
  • Lealholme Port Pirie, Pasminco Room, Wednesday 11th March, 2:00pm – 3:00pm