Posted on Friday, 9th April, 2020
The Aged Care industry in Australia and New Zealand has responded swiftly to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. Visitor bans, strict staff protocols and social distancing are all in place and look to be keeping the majority of their residents safe from potential infection.
Gary Kennedy, a National Food Safety Auditor in Australia, was recently part of a webinar hosted by the Institute of Hospitality in HealthCare (IHHC) Australia. He spoke about the practical aspects of managing COVID-19 in Aged Care, and in particular, food safety.
His key message, for Aged Care Chefs and kitchen staff, is that Aged Care Food Safety Standards in Australia are already in place to deal with viruses and bacteria. Gary emphasised that Food Safety in Aged Care has been specifically designed to manage outbreaks such as the one we are witnessing now. He pointed out: “if you are already doing the right thing, then you are doing the right thing”.
If a facility already has the right procedures in place, there is no need to change cooking temperatures or cleaning products. It is his understanding that the coronavirus is no more resistant to these measures than other known viruses. At this point, the coronavirus is not known to be foodborne.
The two important things for Aged Care kitchens to do are:
- Ensure food safety procedures are in place and being applied rigorously, and everyone is following sanitisation protocols and handwashing.
- Strictly observe the rules for when staff need to stay at home due to illness, contact with known COVID-19 cases or people who have recently returned from overseas.
Creating a network of casual staff who can step in to replace an absent staff member is also a good idea. Some other industries have also split their teams into two groups who are on separate timetables, effectively keeping them fenced off from each other. The idea is that if one team has to isolate due to contact with the virus, the second team is still able to carry on running the kitchen and providing full dining service to your residents.
The Technical and Further Education (TAFE) New South Wales announced they will be closing all courses from March 30 until Monday, April 27 when they will reopen online, with the exception of Aged Care and Nursing courses to keep up with the demand for skilled carers.
The Lantern Project indicates that the bigger issue with the elderly is social isolation and loneliness due to lack of contact with family and close friends. Their website states that research shows lack of socialisation can affect nutrition and food intake, which directly impacts the immune system, susceptibility to infection, and the likelihood of hospital admission. Ensuring residents feel connected to their community and to their family is essential to their physical and mental health.
It is important to make sure you and your staff are following the correct hygiene protocols at all times to ensure your kitchen is always clean and hygienic.
- Frequent hand washing is essential.
- Proper surface cleaning processes must be followed.
- Always maintain social distancing where practical (1.5 metres apart).
- Check staff health if you suspect someone is not well.
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