THE Limestone Coast’s largest aged care provider has not ruled out locking down its aged care facilities to protect its residents if the coronavirus health crisis continues to escalate.
Boandik – which has hundreds of residents potentially vulnerable to COVID-19 – has already cancelled bus outings, trips to theatres and shopping centres in a bid to safeguard its community.
While no confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in the Limestone Coast, aged care communities face a heightened risk given the global death toll among older populations.
Boandik chief executive officer Gillian McGinty said the organisation remained on standby to make tough decisions to protect residents as the COVID-19 crisis continued to unfold.
“If we need to go into lock down we certainly will,” Ms McGinty told The Border Watch.
While a number of residents had been quarantined in Mount Gambier, she said these were related to gastroenteritis and colds, not suspected COVID-19.
She said discussion was already under way with residents and their representatives about whether they wanted to move into lock down.
Ms McGinty said the organisation was monitoring the situation “day-to-day” and advice from authorities.
While the locking down of facilities had not yet been decided, she said this decision would have widespread ramifications on residents given they would not be able to have visitors during this time.
Ms McGinty said the wider community must also be vigilant and ensure they did not bring the COVID-19 virus into their aged care facilities.
She said protection control measures had been swept in at their facilities and information had been circulated across the Boandik community, including the need for effective hand hygiene.
“People should not be visiting these sites if they show signs of sickness,” the aged care leader warned.
Boandik officials also want to know whether people entering their sites if they have returned from an overseas holiday, been in contact with someone who has returned from an overseas or work in a high risk job such as the hospital or medical clinic.
She said it was the responsibility of the wider community to keep older citizens safe from this health threat.
“To achieve this we need everybody’s help,” Ms McGinty said.
“We need the Boandik community to tell us if there is a possibility you have come in contact with someone that could have been exposed to the coronavirus.”
The Federal Government has introduced a two week quarantine period following return from travel to high risk countries and also if there is contact with someone with the coronavirus.
Boandik will also implement this two week quarantine period.
The aged care provider has a pandemic influenza plan it is updating for COVID-19.
“We will be monitoring the World Health Organisation outbreak status and the Australian Government directives,” Ms McGinty said.
“The first change to practice that we will be implementing is bringing forward the flu vaccinations.
“We are arranging for this to occur for residents, staff and volunteers and will be encouraging community clients to also have an early vaccination.”
Boandik will also ensure it had sufficient stocks of infection control equipment such as gloves and masks.