Resident update - Friday 7 January 2022
Dear residents and family members,
We have been in touch with many of you in the past two weeks as the surge in COVID-19 cases has impacted Ryman Healthcare’s villages across Victoria in different ways.
Most of those messages have related to the specific circumstances at the village you or loved one lives in, but I want to share the bigger picture with all Ryman residents and their families so you understand how we’re responding to the situation.
What’s happening in the community
As you know, the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has sparked a massive increase in daily case numbers in Victoria. While Omicron results in a milder form of illness for most people infected, the sheer number of infections is placing a massive strain on the health system.
COVID-19 testing centres are currently unable to cope with the huge spike in demand, and there is a shortage of rapid antigen tests for people to test themselves.
What this means for our villages
Our village staff members live in the community like everybody else and are just as susceptible to catching the virus.
Dozens of them across our seven operational villages are currently unable to work because they have either tested positive, are a close contact of someone who has been infected, or are experiencing symptoms and are waiting for test results to come back.
Staff affected work across a variety of roles, including as carers, nurses, kitchen staff, administration, resident support, and management.
This poses a significant challenge for us because our villages rely on a large workforce to give residents the services and support they need, especially in our care centres.
What we’re doing
We have been preparing for an acute situation like this for two years and have implemented a suite of measures to ensure our villages keep functioning safely.
The safeguards we have in place:
routine rapid antigen testing for all visitors to our villages. We also implemented
a rigorous surveillance testing program – both rapid antigen and PCR – for staff.
This testing regime has meant we’ve identified infected visitors and staff
members early and prevented them passing on the virus to others.
• We’ve activated a surge workforce from among our Melbourne head office staff
to fill gaps in support roles at our villages.
• We have closed all indoor communal facilities at our villages. Reducing the
amount of activity and interaction in a village limits the opportunities for the
virus to spread, and just yesterday we saw the Victorian government
implementing restrictions in hospitality venues for the same reason. For us, it
also means staff members supporting those facilities can focus on tasks
essential to the safe operation of the village.
• Our two large care centres at Nellie Melba and Weary Dunlop are transitioning
to 12-hour rosters. This reduces the number of shifts required to provide 24-
hour care and limits the impact if staff members are suddenly unable to attend
work due to COVID-19.
• A number of staff members have moved into vacant apartments in the village
they work in. We have also paid for hotel rooms for some staff members
allowing them to isolate safely away from family and return to work quicker.
• Care centre staff are wearing full PPE, including masks, face shields and gowns,
to protect residents from infection and to reduce the time they are required to
isolate in their rooms.
• Staff are working in strict cohorts to avoid the risk of cross infection to other
care centre units. We are also providing them with free meals, snacks and
hydration stations so they don’t need to leave the centre during their shift.
• We are one of the only aged care providers in Victoria accredited to run our own
vaccination clinics. We have arranged for additional booster clinics to be held later this month for residents and staff at Weary Dunlop and Nellie Melba, and
John Flynn and Charles Brownlow will have nearby pharmacies run clinics for
The COVID-19 situation in Victoria at the moment can feel overwhelming and if you’re feeling anxious, you’re not alone.
The overseas experience with Omicron provides some cause for hope, however. Countries that have had large outbreaks of the variant have seen a huge spike in the number of cases, followed by a rapid decline as the virus flames out.
If Australia follows a similar trajectory, it means we are likely approaching the worst of the outbreak before the situation quickly improves.
And, so far, none of our care residents and just two of our independent residents have tested positive for the virus. This tells us that, even though a number of staff have become infected, the precautions and protocols we have in place are protecting those most vulnerable to the virus.
What you can do
• Take sensible precautions if you’re having visitors. Good ventilation has been
shown to prevent transmission of the virus so open windows if you can, and
keep up good hand hygiene and social distancing practises.
• If you are eligible for your COVID-19 booster jab please get it as soon as
possible. People who have had they booster have much more protection against
Omicron than those who haven’t. You are eligible to get it if you had your
second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine more than four months ago.
Where to from here
The support of our Ryman residents, families and friends has been amazing. This pandemic has asked so much of all of us for two years now, and your ongoing patience and understanding has underpinned our efforts to keep everyone safe.
I want you to know that we are keeping our residents’ overall wellbeing in mind as we respond to the current outbreak, and we will move to restore life in our village communities to normal at the earliest opportunity.
While the current situation is testing us like never before, we were ready for it, our emergency response plans are working, and our village teams are once again rising to the occasion.
Webinar for residents and family members
On Thursday next week at 3pm we will host a webinar for all Ryman residents and their family members to update you on the COVID-19 situation. You can join the webinar by clicking here and entering the passcode 675713.
Until then, we won’t issue another email unless there is an urgent change at your village.
If you have any queries in the meantime, please call 1800 288 299 or email email@example.com.
Our commitment is to keep you fully informed about the situation at your village, but I want you to be assured that every resource Ryman Australia has is being brought to bear to ensure we get through this challenging time.
Victorian Operations Manager
We know you’ve probably seen this before, but a reminder that the symptoms to watch out for include:
• a cough
• a high temperature (at least 37.5˚C)
• shortness of breath
• a sore throat
• sneezing and runny nose
• temporary loss of smell
For queries contact 1800 288 299 or email firstname.lastname@example.org