Victoria’s aged care sector was thrown into a devastating situation earlier this year – but one carer helped achieve the impossible at her facility, ensuring not a single case of COVID-19 got in.
Lisa Marshall, who is both the infection control officer and facility RN at a 60-bed facility in Melton, Victoria, is the “go-to person” for staff, other health services and the families of residents in the home where she works.
“She is pretty much on call 24 hours a day,” Ms Marshall’s daughter, Chloe, told news.com.au, adding her mum frequently makes the trip back to work in the middle of the night to help provide additional support.
Ms Marshall worked “a lot of additional hours”, attended meetings, underwent additional training (and then trained staff herself) and “had to be creative in her role – all while wearing full PPE for hours on end each and every day”.
This meant being innovative not just in the ways residents and staff were protected from the virus, but also ensuring residents could still keep in regular contact with their loved ones.
“Her priority was always the safety and wellbeing of the residents at the facility,” Chloe said.
And it paid off: Ms Marshall’s facility was the only aged care home in Melton not to record a single confirmed case of COVID-19 among staff or residents, “truly a testament to the hard work of not only my mum, but all of the staff and families at the facility”.
Over the last month news.com.au has asked readers to help us recognise some of the unsung heroes of an industry that was hit hard this year so that we could say thank you – rewarding five workers with a $750 voucher each to Reflections Holiday Park.
We were inundated with stories of incredible, selfless work through the hardest of circumstances – but the stories of Ms Marshall, along with Julie Delbridge, Christine Giles, Andrew Silwood and Mike Foley, blew us away. These are our competition winners:
MIKE FOLEY, VICTORIA
Melville Grange facility manager Mike Foley “gave his life” to save others, his co-worker Tim Humphries told news.com.au.
“In the home Mike managed absolutely everything from infection control to catering, cleaning, FaceTime visits for residents, providing a number of government departments with updates, while still being on call for another of our homes and leading the team brilliantly to follow in his footsteps.
“He worked 12 hours a day for a month, while self-isolating at home for 14 days away from his wife and four children. The ultimate reward for Mike’s remarkable effort was that no other staff member or resident contracted COVID-19.”
Mr Humphries said Mr Foley’s desire to protect residents and the team from a situation that “was extremely stressful, and possibly harmful” was nothing short of extraordinary.
“As an observer I can’t imagine what went on, particularly on that first night, but what I am certain of is that had Mike not agreed to put his life on hold, the outcome would not have been as good as it was.”
CHRISTINE GILES, NEW SOUTH WALES
When Christine Giles was asked to go and work on the “frontline” at a NSW aged care home where residents had been infected with coronavirus, she didn’t hesitate.
Having worked in nursing for at least 43 years – the last 12 of which have been in aged care, and the last six with Anglicare Sydney – this wasn’t the first outbreak of disease in a home that Ms Giles had dealt with.
Ms Giles was away from her family for several months, and stayed in accommodation for roughly four months – including an eight week period of self-isolation.
“We worked very long hours – and it wasn’t just me, it was the whole organisation: it was the staff within the home, it was the staff outside the home and you know, so much was done by everybody,” she said.
“The staff worked many, many hours – people were putting in 18 hours a day, seven days a week – and you know, being on call in the other six hours that they had in the day.”
ANDREW SILWOOD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Not only did he take every possible action to keep coronavirus from infiltrating South Australia’s St Paul’s Lutheran Homes Hahndorf, carer Andrew Silwood also ensured his residents felt as loved and supported as possible during a period where visits from family and friends were limited – and for a period, even banned.
“It’s not an easy job to be a carer – but the residents, the staff – they love him. Because St Paul’s is about person-centred care, every person has something different, and in his area where he works, he focuses on the little details just to make their life that little bit easier,” his colleague Jennifer Neal told news.com.au.
“And it’s not easy, as a resident, to give up your independence. Basically you’re reliant on the carers to get you through each day – they need help getting up, some of them need help eating their meals – and he serves them, he helps them get up and he does it in a way that’s respectful to them.”
It wasn’t an easy process, Ms Neal said, “turning up each day with a positive attitude and being consistent and faithful … because you’re in the firing line when you work in aged care”.
“And you want to protect yourself, but you also really want to protect the residents. So you put the residents before yourself. And that’s what he did.”
JULIE DELBRIDGE, VICTORIA
For 71-year-old Julie Delbridge, who has worked in aged care for over 20 years, her own wellbeing was the last thing she considered when the disease began to impact Victoria’s sector – despite being classified as high risk herself.
Ms Delbridge’s daughter, Lex – who has been stuck in Indonesia throughout the pandemic – said her Mum, who hasn’t taken a break in almost two years and drives an hour to and from work each day, has “risked her life during the pandemic”.
“She’s almost 72, and in the highest possible risk category, and yet she still goes to work. She’s older than so many of the residents she cares for,” Lex told news.com.au, adding her mum has “more energy at 71 than I do at 36”.
Not only did Ms Delbridge wear a mask, gloves and face shield every day at work, along with frequent COVID-19 tests – her job in the facility’s kitchen and dining room also required her to move in and out of “a very hot kitchen in her PPE”.
“She’s done all of this for months but still couldn’t see her children or her three grandchildren. My sisters couldn’t go and see her and she couldn’t go and see them. They felt lit was too much of a risk for her, even before the huge lockdown in Melbourne, and yet she still went to work.”