The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Victoria, in particular, is significantly impacted in terms of the number of cases and transmission of this highly infectious disease.
This emergency response plan provides a framework to respond to the virus and the steps Eastbourne Professional Suites is taking to protect staff, practitioners and our clients during the pandemic.
This response plan has been formulated taking guidance from:
- The Australian Psychology Society (APS)
- The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
- The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) which requires that community service organisations (CSOs) such as VCPS abide by any directions, laws or regulations issued by the Victorian or Commonwealth Governments regarding prevention, including physical distancing.
DHHS has recommended that CSOs implement recommended hygiene practices in all settings including client-facing services, staff and contractors.
In preparing this response plan, Eastbourne Professional Suites understands that it has a duty of care to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees. This includes preventing, and where prevention is not possible, reducing, risks to health and safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.
There are a number of situations which could occur which require an immediate and tailored response on a case by case basis. A number of scenarios are described later in this document as well as recommended strategies to deal with those scenarios.
Preventing COVID-19 within Eastbourne Premises
Eastbourne practitioners see hundreds of clients per week and generate considerable foot traffic within the building. While the level of clinical acuity is not as high as patients treated in hospitals or general practice clinics, there is potential for community transmission. The adoption of personal hygiene and routine cleaning and disinfection are therefore important strategies to help prevent infection.
The utilisation of standard precautions such as hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, cough etiquette and regular environmental cleaning, as well as social distancing and early recognition of cases, are necessary to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
Eastbourne Professional Suites requires all practitioners and staff to promote hand hygiene, cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene for themselves and their clients.
- If feeling unwell, staff and practitioners should be discouraged from coming to work. If their symptoms are moderate they should work from home or if more severe they should self-isolate until they are better. They should also arrange to have a COVID 19 test.
- VCPS provides a supply of alcohol-based hand disinfectant for staff, practitioners and clients to use. Disinfectant hand rub stations are available in the reception area, waiting rooms, bathrooms and staff kitchen area.
- VCPS staff have regular training on hand hygiene and correct use of alcohol-based sanitisers, and posters displaying hand hygiene are strategically displayed within the building.
Routine cleaning and disinfection
DDHS has prescribed the following cleaning requirements which Eastbourne Professional Suites will adhere to. Elements of this will be undertaken by Eastbourne Professional Suites staff throughout the day by staff employed on the premises, as well as the building cleaners on a regular basis.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces at least daily. These include table tabletops, door handles, light switches, desks, toilets, taps, Air Conditioning and TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles.
- Clean surfaces and fittings when visibly soiled and immediately after any spillage. Where available, a disinfectant may be used following a thorough cleaning.
- Advice should be sought from DHHS regarding more intensive cleaning requirements if COVID-19 positive cases are identified- please see “Cleaning and disinfecting to reduce COVID-19 transmission” as instructed from DHHS.
The requirement for Physical Distancing and hygiene measures
Eastbourne Professional Suites is required to implement physical distancing measures in the delivery of services and in the operations of our staff and practitioners. These physical distancing measures align with the directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer.
In addition to the steps outlined in (b) above, the following hygiene practices have been implemented including the use of hand hygiene products and suitable waste collection processes.
Eastbourne Professional Suites actively encourages staff, practitioners and their clients to:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, especially after coughing or sneezing, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover coughs and sneeze with arm/elbow or tissue and dispose of the tissue in a plastic-lined garbage bin.
- If unwell, avoid contact with others including staying away from the workplace and public spaces.
- Exercise personal responsibility for physical distancing measures and stay more than 1.5 metres from people.
- Proactively send staff home from work if they are unwell.
Some activities that may pose a risk of exposure to COVID-19 can include:
- Work that requires employees to be in close contact with others.
- Sharing facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens and communal break areas.
- Using shared equipment.
To mitigate these risks Eastbourne Professional Suites has implemented the following measures.
- Reconfigure seating arrangements in shared waiting areas to ensure 1.5 metres between seating, and all common areas implementing 1 person per 4 square metres.
- Consider providing food in disposable containers.
- Limit people being in enclosed spaces (e.g. meeting rooms) with others to less than 2-hour duration.
Use of personal protection equipment (PPE)and Facemasks
Eastbourne Professional Suites is an outpatient facility and as such, as a less acute health setting does not use gowns or gloves. However, In line with DHHS requirements, Eastbourne Professional Suites requires the use of face masks for practitioners and clients while in the building. A face covering needs to cover both nose and mouth and can be either a face mask or shield.
Eastbourne Professional Suites has sourced a supply of face masks for practitioners’ use. It should be noted that even with a mask, it is important to maintain a 1.5 metres distance between people.
Where possible, Eastbourne Professional Suites will:
- Screen clients in relation to current health (e.g., whether anyone in their household has a confirmed case of COVID-19, is unwell, or if they reside in a designated “hotspot area”). Intake staff will ascertain this information by telephone before the client booking is made to attend the office. The transition of face to face to telehealth consultations will be made if possible.
- Require all people attending the office to use sign in using the displayed QR codes.
- Require all people attending the office to use hand sanitiser or wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds upon entry to the building. Signage to this effect is placed at the reception area and waiting room.
- Make hand sanitiser, soap and tissues readily available and accessible.
- Always implement recommended physical distancing between people in the office (1.5 metres space between people and 1 person per 4 square metres).
- Suspend group activities and consider alternatives if applicable.
- Display signage in visible areas for hygiene requirements.
- Clean surfaces/ door handles regularly etc. This function is included in daily staff duties for any staff physically working from the premises (a roster for this activity is prepared by the practice manager).
Immediate Management of Suspected or Confirmed COVID 19 Cases
The following DHHS guidelines and principles should be used to determine the appropriate response:
Any symptomatic healthcare worker who meets the testing criteria for COVID-19 should be advised to isolate immediately and testing for COVID-19 should be facilitated. While they are awaiting test results they should remain in isolation until they have been notified of the test result and the appropriate course of action is subsequently determined. The following steps should be taken by the healthcare service:
- Ensure that the staff member is currently self-isolating.
- If the staff member is not currently in self-isolation, they must remove themselves from the workplace immediately with the least possible risk of transmission to others. This may include the following:
- If possible, they should wear a single-use surgical mask.
- They should avoid public transport and return home immediately without detour.
- If possible, they should take a private car.
- If they are not driving, they should sit in the rear seat.
- They should minimise contact with any other persons and should practice strict physical distancing.
- Ensure that the staff member has had testing arranged.