Dedication of staff applauded as all Western Trust care homes return to Covid-free status

THE hard work and dedication of Western Trust Care Home Support Team has come into welcome focus with the news that all Care Homes in the Trust have returned to Covid-19 free status.

Although maintaining this milestone will remain an ongoing challenge for both the Care Homes and Care Home Support Team this does represent a very welcome landmark for everyone.

This comes 12 months on in what has been an exceptionally challenging year for everyone in Health and Social Care and the Western Trust’s thoughts will also continue to be with all those who have been grieved or affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Care Home Support Team is a small specialised nursing team that support Independent Care Homes in the WHSCT area through the provision of education, training, advice and guidance.

The Team’s key goals are to help improve End of Life care, to prevent avoidable hospital admissions where possible and to improve general care for residents through a tailored education program. This approach was developed as a Public Health Authority (PHA) regional transformation initiative, and started in the WHSCT in late 2019.

Following the COVID-19 Pandemic, which emerged in March 2020, a new support model for Care homes needed to be developed in response and the Care Home Support Team quickly adapted its role in response.

The Team became the Single Point of Contact for all Care Homes across the WHSCT geography and moved from the traditional model of Monday to Friday working towards seven day cover.

To support Care Home staff the team took on a broad range of additional responsibilities, including the coordination and provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), providing infection prevention and control advice and the overall management of outbreaks when they occurred.

Other responsibilities included, workforce monitoring and staffing support, the rollout of Covid Testing (including both National Testing Initiative and Outbreak testing) and provision of additional clinical equipment where needed.

Whilst still managing these initiatives efforts of the team were further channelled towards the roll out of the Covid-19 Mass Vaccination Programme for both care home residents and staff.

Throughout the pandemic this improved working model has helped further strengthen strong relationships between WHSCT staff and care home managers and staff across the Trust area by providing peer support, guidance and when needed emotional support and friendship.

Paula Devine, Community Locality Service Manager, has been to the fore in leading the Care home Support team response.

Paula said: “It took a huge effort by everyone and it was very stressful and overwhelming at times. I was so impressed with the willingness of staff in particular in the Care Home support model to do whatever was needed to keep everyone safe.”

“Through this model they have all worked together and supported each other very effectively. This was successful because of great communication and strong working relationships and support from across the whole organisation. I am very proud of what we have all achieved, they are all my WT Heroes!”

“The team continue to work very closely with the care homes and plan to build on this to maintain strong relationships and partnership working with continued regular engagement in the future.”

“The team now have an enhanced insight into the challenges within the Independent Sector and this experience has highlighted the importance of their input and the need for dedicated resources to continue this support and develop the training/education and monitoring schedule.”

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