The Wessex Care Family’s 2020This article was written by Matthew Airey, Founding Director of Wessex Care and Wiltshire Care Partnership Chair, Wiltshire Regional Chair & National Director Registered Nursing Home Association, for Wiltshire Life Magazine and was first published in the February 2021 issue.
As for everyone, 2020 has proven to be an immense challenge which for us started very early in the year when we could see the pandemic spreading from China. I asked my eldest brother who has a mind for accurate facts and science, and time on his hands having retired after 50 years at sea, to research what was happening and what the risk to our residents, community customers and our staff might be. His all to brief report made chilling reading and prompted us early to face the challenge of preparing for the relative unknown (referred to as Business Continuity planning). Our key focus was how to keep everyone as safe as possible and within our BCP, we already had a pandemic response which required some alteration and has developed with time and experience but at least gave us somewhere to start.
So, priorities became:
Increased focus and implementation of our Infection Prevention and Control strategies including increasing cleaning and decontamination routines, further updated training for all staff on IPC but also enhanced levels of Personal Protection Equipment and the introduction of UV-C decontamination robot, the first time this type of decontamination has been delivered outside of a specialist environment like a Hospital. Later, using specialist fogging machines and luminometers in our arsenal to decontaminate visiting areas and double check that our cleaning and decontamination process had worked.
Supporting our staff to protect themselves and thus protect our residents and community customers by ensuring adequate supplies of PPE, financially supporting self-isolation if they or their family where unwell in any way, joining the early testing pilots, providing free accommodation for those that wanted to move away from family and closer to work through to the change from uniforms to scrubs so that our industrial washing system was available to all staff. We even had a food and essentials bank available before our health and social care teams received priority access to the supermarkets.
We introduced enhanced isolation and podding techniques to protect residents from any potential outbreak ensuring they were well cared for by consistent staff in a controlled clean and safe environment while still able to have regular contact with their loved ones electronically. Along with this, we appointed a welfare and engagement lead whose sole job was to ensure the continued support of regular contact between residents and family and to deliver, with our welfare team, daily engagement activities and experience for all our residents to keep their minds and bodies as active as possible.
To date we have supported 1300+ contact visits across the range from electronically (Zoom type) to more recently the use of indoor screened visiting pods. In addition to what our welfare people provided in house we have delivered over 200 engagement activities from yoga to a virtual tour of London including over 40 live music events.
In mid-March and as part of our strategic partnership with Wiltshire Council and the NHS, we were asked if we could change our rehabilitation service into a dedicated Hospital Discharge Support Unit to provide urgent patient flow from the hospital with COVID+ people who needed close nursing to wellness or supporting with their end-of-life care. A team, lead by our daughter and company Operations Director Jodie Scott, was set up to deliver this service which they wanted operational before the easter weekend when the COVID spike was expected to hit.
The Wessex Care family rallied to the cause as did our residents to ensure this service was safe, contained and fully operational ready to support the hospital before the easter weekend. This required staff and residents moving and a volunteer group of staff to work in the COVID+ HDSU. Everyone, no matter their role, was so dedicated, professional and committed to making this work while ensuring the welfare and safety of our current residents was maintained. The residents and their families where so supportive - many offering, so kindly, to help that one felt truly part of a community and not in an isolated and scary place. This was followed by other so generous support from the direct community, by our neighbours all coming out in front of our services to clap, to the free food and PPE that was made and delivered.
A huge thank you to all of these wonderful people, you know who you are. Here I want to specially mention the Care Home Visitors charity whom we have worked with for many years. They changed, it seemed overnight, what they do, as they could no longer directly visit, and began sending letters and cards to our residents and then provided us with a number of additional iPads to support residents maintaining contact with families and engagement in various online activities. Thank you so much, we know many residential care services across Wiltshire benefited from your support throughout this period and today.
This last year has seen us all in the Wessex Care family deal with some great times, like the birth of several babies, and with some deeply sad times where we have lost residents and personal friends and family. But throughout, our amazing teams and individuals have held fast to their commitment to do whatever they can to protect their residents and community care customers. There have been tears and laughter despite this pandemic and a sense of comradery and pride at what has been achieved. It has truly been a road from fear to pride.
In September, we prepared for Winter with January to March being the highest risk months. We have been preparing for a perfect possible storm of COVID mixed with seasonal flu and with hospitals trying to get normal operational systems back up and running, also mixed with delivering substantial increased testing, an unprecedented vaccination programme and while also keeping everyone safe. Massive challenges lie ahead for us and for our health and social care colleagues. But we are ready, we have done it once and we can and will do it again.
Thank you to each and every one of our amazing employees and to our residents and relatives for there fortitude, understanding and forbearance. Thank you to all our health and social care colleagues wherever you are and whatever you do - you are all amazing. Finally, a very special thank you to our community for your unwavering support, we promise to continue to be there for you as you have been there for us.
Pauline, Matthew, Jodie & ChristianRead the Wiltshire Life article here