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SA strengthens rapid response teams in nursing homes to combat COVID

The South Australian Government has announced the creation of a second rapid response team of domiciliary nurses and phlebotomists from SA Pathology, to respond to any COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care and other residential facilities in the State.

The new rapid response team has the ability to test everyone in a facility during an outbreak and protect other vulnerable residents and staff in affected facilities. [Source: Shutterstock]

However, two weeks ago the Federal Government had already announced a contract for dedicated aged care pathology services with Sonic Healthcare, operating as Clinpath Pathology in SA, with the recent SA Government decision causing friction between the service provider and State Government.

SA Health Minister, Stephen Wade, has not commented on the double up of services but says the additional SA Pathology rapid response team has the ability to test everyone in a facility during an outbreak, are able to identify any positive cases, limit the spread and protect other vulnerable residents and staff in affected facilities.

“South Australia has led the nation with our COVID-19 response, but the fight is far from over and we must continue to plan for every scenario," says Minister Wade.

“A key to protecting our State from a resurgence of this disease is our success in dealing with cases as they are identified. The way to stop a case from becoming a cluster and a cluster becoming an outbreak is to identify and isolate cases and contacts quickly.

“Older people are much more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 and residents in aged care facilities are at particular risk as we see in both Australia and overseas.

“Speed is vital when it comes to diagnosis and contact tracing, so this rapid service has the potential to save lives."

SA Pathology's mobile service will be available to all city nursing homes and country residential aged care facilities that are within reach of a regional pathology laboratory and patient centres.

Other residential facilities will be utilising this service as well, including disability accommodation, supported residential facilities, boarding houses, residential colleges, and prisons.

Executive Director of Clinical Services of SA Pathology, Dr Tom Dodd, says this innovative approach to testing will help navigate the challenges in an aged care facility experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.

"Testing within a facility can help us contain the outbreak and, importantly, it will limit the risk of exposure for the residents," explains Dr Dodd.

“SA Pathology has been pivotal in flattening the curve in South Australia, but a high level of testing will continue to be required if we are to keep a step ahead of the virus. The Residential Aged Care Facility service is just another innovative way for us to increase our testing capabilities."

In response to Minister Wade's announcement, Clinpath Pathology has stated that it has been supporting metropolitan and regional aged care facilities in South Australia for over two weeks now, in accordance with the national contract. 

In a statement the provider has said that, "The contracted service was inclusive of collection and testing of residents and frontline health workers in aged care. These services provide residents and staff with onsite collection support, rapid results and comprehensive infection control reporting".

Brooke Kenny, Pre Analytics and Special Projects Manager at Clinpath Pathology, says, "As Aged and Home Care providers have embraced innovative models of care focused around the patient, Clinpath Pathology have adapted service models and implemented dedicated Aged Care resources to support patient care in this market. 

"This national contract underpins a service model which supports some of the most vulnerable members of our community, providing them with access to highly skilled phlebotomists, robust infection control procedures and rapid results."

Clinpath Pathology (nationally known as Sonic Healthcare) was awarded the contract to manage aged care COVID-19 collection by the Australia Government on 28 April of this year.

Besides the collection and testing of residents and healthcare workers, Clinpath also provides onsite collection support, rapid results and infection control reporting.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of the aged care tests performed so far.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide COVID-19 update page.

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