When Nellie Melba Retirement Village unit coordinator Chi Zhao took on the role of the village’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Leader the words ‘COVID-19’ were yet to be uttered.
With global pandemics so rare, Chi’s role as a nurse, offering care to residents, dominated her days, while her work as the IPC Leader involved auditing, running education sessions and assisting with the Influenza Immunisation Program.
But during nearly 10 months of COVID-19 restrictions, Chi was at the forefront of Ryman Healthcare’s fight against the pandemic, leading the allocation of some of the 1.1 million masks, 2.5 million pairs of gloves and about 500,000 face shields and gowns purchased to keep COVID-19 out.
“Luckily we shared the responsibility, it wasn’t just me,” Chi laughs.
There is no doubt, though, that the role of IPC Leader during a global pandemic is one of the most important a person could have.
“During the lockdown there was a lot of continual counting of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to make sure there was always enough each day for staff to pick up,” she says.
With new residents moving into the village during the lockdown, the amount of PPE used on any one day would change based on how many admissions there had been, however “a lot” was needed.
“The PPE was sorted next door to where I sit, so I was always keeping an eye on it and keeping everyone safe meant a lot was used by staff and residents,” Chi says.
Ryman operations project manager Gabriel Dalberto says Ryman established its own local warehouse to store the mammoth amounts of PPE.
“By having the resources available in such large quantities Ryman was able to adopt procedures that went beyond the minimum government COVID-19 requirements, which further ensured the safety of all our staff and residents,” Gabriel says.
With no background in infection control prior to taking on the role, Chi says she has gained an immense amount from the experience of helping to maintain the village as a safe haven.
“Each day I grew and reflected a lot on how I could do better tomorrow,” she says.
“At Ryman you are encouraged, even pushed in a good way, to always keep learning and growing and I really appreciate that.”
Playing such a significant role during COVID-19 had left her humbled.
“I need to thank all of my managers and the residents for trusting me.
“I always try my best.”