First of two vaccinations completed for Birchwood House staff and residents
Saturday 23rd January allowed Birchwood to progress the fight against Covid-19 by offering the first of the two Astra Zeneca vaccination doses to both residents and Birchwood House staff. With formal agreement forms provided and signed beforehand, the administration could take place in the home by our local doctor and an NHS team from Warders Medical Centre in Tunbridge Wells. In all, 27 residents successfully received the vaccine along with 22 care home staff.
We set up a ‘one in, one out’ process from two separate dining rooms (one for residents and one for staff), with three extra staff on duty that day to maintain the one-to-one care for our residents. This enabled everyone to take time out to receive their dose. As per NHS guidelines, everyone will receive their second dose in 12 weeks.
Whilst this is an important step for Birchwood residents and staff, we continue to adhere to strict infection control procedures for the safety of everyone. We are very fortunate to be able to have regular visits from local GP’s, usually every Monday and Friday to generally check upon every resident and support anyone who may need it.
Rigorous staff testing three times a week
We have a very safe and stringent procedure when it comes to testing our staff every week before they even arrive at Birchwood House from their own homes. All staff are tested three times a week. We have the flexibility for every staff member to test themselves at home twice a week, where they can confirm in 30 minutes, they are negative, providing visual evidence by taking a photograph and emailing in their result into our senior team in advance of setting off and arriving for work. A third test, known as the PCR test, is taken and analysed by the NHS with results typically received within 24 hours.
Ensuring a healthy stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We were lucky to have a good contact who could supply us with the much sought-after PPE that was reported to be of shortage across the country. Very early on we were able to acquire masks for all of the staff and a government care package from the NHS added 300 masks to our supply in the first week of April. In early June we stocked up with 5000 extra masks to ensure ample supply for the months ahead by mitigating against and potential shortages to supply. As part of their everyday uniform, staff already wear gloves and aprons so we were fully prepared on that front. Staff simply had to add masks to their outfits from the 26th March to comply with regulations and to keep themselves and our residents safe.
Regular family visits maintained
We continue to put the health and safety of our residents and staff first and foremost. However, we know how important it is for our residents to maintain close contact and connection with their families too.
We have enabled the home to offer a Covid-secure visiting area for close friends and family. Social distancing with non-physical contact is maintained using a perspex divider screen and clear communication achieved using a two-way microphone. Separate entrance and exit points are used by the residents and visitors. Being able to provide this and still keep everyone safe has brought some much-needed joy to all. One family said we had done an amazing job keeping everyone safe, and another said “what we are doing is clearly working.”
Keeping a smile on everyone’s faces
Ensuring everyone enjoys their time in the home is something we work hard to achieve. Whilst our usual calendar of events and activities was initially on hold for a short period, we successfully managed to continue to hold regular in-house activities and seasonal events with the guidance provided. We kept up to date with guidance to make sure we were able to remain positive and inject the usual spirit of fun into the daily lives of our residents.
Continued optimism into 2021
We haven’t made any changes to our strict health and safety procedures when it comes to COVID-19. And despite the first of two vaccinations being successfully administered in the home, we are focusing on keeping our home safe more than ever. We continue to prioritise our residents and staff welfare and safety and this will remain our main focus throughout 2021.
We are hopeful and positive about the future as we feel proud of how we have managed a difficult and challenging situation. We look forward to welcoming more residents into our home and being given the privilege of keeping them safe and enriching their lives.