BASS Coast Health’s Kirrak House residential aged care home in Wonthaggi received notification yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, August 5) that an agency staff member who was recruited by Bass Coast Health on a long-term contract had returned a positive COVID-19 test result, three days after their most recent shift.

This is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Bass Coast Health (BCH) and is a reminder that even with the strictest precautions and robust screening processes, the transmission of the COVID-19 virus is possible. This is a highly contagious virus that is sadly very prevalent in Victoria and in our local community, and Bass Coast Health have responded swiftly to reduce risk of transmission to its residents and staff.

In line with the requirements of the DHHS and BCH Outbreak plan, Bass Coast Health made immediate notification to the state Department of Health and Human Services, and to the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. Whilst to date there are no residents who are symptomatic, Bass Coast Health has notified all residents, relatives and staff and have instituted all the measures outlined in the Outbreak plan. This includes testing of all residents and staff, complete lockdown of the facility, and furloughing of the two staff who had direct contact with the agency nurse.

“We understand that news of this outbreak will be extremely distressing for everybody involved including residents, relatives and families,” said BCH CEO Jan Child.

“I also know that the staff at Kirrak who have worked tirelessly for the past months protecting their residents, are devastated that this exposure has occurred.

“Bass Coast Health wants to reassure everyone that every resource available, will be deployed to safeguard the residents and staff; we will openly communicate with our residents, relatives and staff at every point to ensure everyone understands the actions we are taking to combat this outbreak, and we will do all that is possible to keep our residents safe.”

Ms Child stated that the agency staff member worked night duty on the 27th and 28th of July, and the 1st and 2nd of August. The night duty rostering means that the staff member was only in brief contact with residents, and only had significant exposure to two Kirrak staff.

“We know that the staff member wore PPE during all interactions with the residents; we know that at the time of entering our facility, the agency staff member was asymptomatic, with appropriate temperature tests; and we know that the daily screening of our residents that has occurred since that time, has shown that all residents have been asymptomatic.

“The Kirrak staff have been highly vigilant in getting tested as soon as they have any symptoms and three staff have been tested in the last week, prior to BCH being aware of this positive agency nurse, and all three staff have tested negative.”

Bass Coast Health will proactively communicate with all residents, relatives and staff to provide updates over the coming days and weeks. BCH said they will be supported and monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Health, and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and we will make sure that any residents, relatives and staff who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or who become unwell for any reason, will be well supported on an individual basis to ensure all their needs are met.

This is a stark reminder that the COVID-19 Pandemic is here, and it is real.

“We ask everyone across Bass Coast to continue to do all they can to safeguard vulnerable communities such as Kirrak; this includes physical distancing, masks, hand hygiene, staying at home if unwell, and proactive testing when unwell.

“We are very hopeful that our cautious approach and proactive response will guide us well and we ask everyone to please be respectful of the privacy of our Kirrak community whilst we work together to get through this Outbreak.”