Caring for our patients in the community

The impact of COVID-19 on residents in Aged Care facilities has been confronting for many of us over recent weeks and months.

Dr Paul Yates is part of the Austin Health InReach team which supports patients in nursing homes and the team has been at the forefront of helping facilities respond to an incredibly challenging situation.

“The role of our team is to support Aged Care patients outside of the hospital setting,” Dr Yates said. 

“Not everyone needs hospitalisation and we provide care to patients where they live to help avoid the distress that can come with bringing elderly patients to hospital, particularly in the last weeks and days of their life.

“This is something the team does everyday but the demand for this type of care has been heightened as a result of COVID-19.

“We’ve expanded the team to help support Aged Care facilities with additional medical staff, registrars and nurses all joining to help manage the workload. We have needed every one of our new staff as we’ve been busier than ever with increasing complexity and difficulty in mix of patients we’re seeing.

“The team has had to be quick to adapt to changing circumstances and while many patients prefer to stay in their nursing home to receive care, at times they need to be safely and quickly transported to hospital.

“The stress on families is also heightened due to COVID and we have developed innovative solutions including webinars with families to explain what is happening in homes and proactively engaging with GPs in the community.

“This work is continuing and we’re very grateful for the support other teams around Austin Health have provided including Radiology, ED and general medicine but there are lots of people to thank for their help at the moment,” he said. 

Geriatrician, Dr Liza Lau, said this collaboration is so important the work InReach team does. 

“We’re in the middle of so many different partners and collaboration is central to everything we do,” Dr Lau said.

“I’m proud to be part of a culture where people are going above and beyond to help and this also extends to a number of our GP partners supporting us in the community.

“There are always difficult aspects to the role but being part of such a passionate team means we’re able to bring a sense of positivity to challenging situations,” she said.

Nurse, Nikki Nash, joined the InReach team early after the pandemic started to help her colleagues meet the additional demands for their services.

“I’ve so enjoyed being part of an amazing and compassionate team,” Nikki said.

“We’re working with a complex patient group but using the team’s skills we can avert ED presentations and provide high quality care in an environment that is familiar to the patient.

“I feel really privileged to help with the contribution we’re currently making,” she said.

Debbie Munro, Divisional Director, Continuing Care, said Austin Health should be very proud of the work being done by the InReach team at the moment.

"The way the team is responding is outstanding,” Debbie said.

“We think of acute care as the frontline in the battle against COVID-19 but our staff are going into Aged Care facilities where there are active outbreaks and providing the best possible care to the residents of the facilities as well as supporting the staff who work there.

“This team provides great care every day and they have risen to the COVID 19 challenge to continue to provide exceptional patient focussed care in some difficult circumstances. We are very thankful for their efforts and the care they provide on behalf of the Austin Health community,” she said.