Lessons learnt from NSW and Victoria: AnglicareSA CEO says Adelaide outbreak seeing “strong collaboration” between State and Federal authorities – residents to be sent immediately to hospital if infection detected

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On Sunday night, AnglicareSA CEO Peter Sandeman (pictured below) received the call no one wants to hear – two staff members at the Not for Profit’s Brompton aged care home (pictured above) in Adelaide’s northern suburbs had tested positive for coronavirus as part of the growing ‘Parafield cluster’. But South Australia has learnt from the major aged care outbreaks in NSW and Victoria, he tells us – with a strong collaboration between State and Federal authorities.

Peter says that AnglicareSA’s critical incident management team and residential aged care response team were stood up immediately after the call.

Daily meetings ironing out issues

Daily meetings are now taking place with all of the authorities involved – the State and Federal health departments, various units of SA Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) and SA’s Aged Care Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS) – and unlike previous outbreaks, there have been no issues as yet.

“Given the kind of difficulties other situations experienced with confusion about the roles of the different authorities, having the daily meetings on Zoom allows any miscommunications and inconsistences to be ironed out and to date, no real issues have arisen,” he said.

Brompton – which specialises in supporting older people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – only has 40 residents. With 11 staff asked to self-isolate in addition to the three employees that have now tested positive, Peter agrees most of the home’s workforce has been lost.

Surge workforce guided by home’s existing management

Surge workforce staff are now being provided by Aspen Medical and a local health agency with drug and alcohol staff also being supplied with all staff wearing full PPE.

However, the CEO says the importance of retaining the home’s leadership has been understood with the local manager, senior clinician and separate site manager all on board to guide the agency staff.

Simulation scenarios have also helped the provider prepare its various back-of-house teams for a possible outbreak situation.

“It’s working perhaps as smoothly as we could expect despite the initial scramble with very little notice,” he stated.

24-hour hotline for families to call

The issues with communication in previous aged care outbreaks have also been noted with AnglicareSA setting up a 24-hour hotline to answer calls about the cases.

Many of Brompton’s residents are under guardianship orders so next of kin and guardians are being notified daily. Welfare checks are also being carried out daily on the staff in isolation.

Residents and staff are now being tested every 72 hours in line with the lifecycle of the strain affecting the cluster.

“There seems to be a greater number of asymptomatic people and the virus itself is a three-day leap from infection to others so it’s a very rapid turnaround and hence the three days.”

Residents to be sent immediately to hospital if infection detected

Staff do face the challenge that the nature of Brompton’s residents means that they will not stay in their rooms.

“But by and large, residents are stoic and glad to be safe,” Peter adds.

While four residents have been sent to hospital, three have returned with negative tests while the fourth has been hospitalised for unrelated health reasons.

“The key difference between SA and the experience interstate is the commitment that the SA Government made that any resident who tested positive would be transported immediately to Royal Adelaide Hospital.”

With the state now under a six-day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to be followed by eight days of heightened restrictions, Peter says he is “very pleased” to see the Government’s ‘go early, go hard’ response.

“Prevention of community transmission is our first line of defense in aged care,” he said. “We have been able to learn lessons from Victoria and NSW… and that’s formed part of our planning.”


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