Dealing with a coronavirus outbreak is one of the hardest experiences our staff could face. Thankfully, they don’t have to face it alone. We spoke to FitzRoy manager Denise about how, with the combined efforts of her staff and teams across FitzRoy, her East Sussex care home battled through their toughest challenge to date.
Denise said: “A week before Christmas, when cases were extremely high in the local area, we had two staff test positive for coronavirus. Within two weeks, we had a total of 22 staff and six people we support all test positive and we were in crisis.
“My team worked around the clock to cover shifts, doing overtime and finding any ways they could help make sure we had enough staff in to keep the people we support safe. One support worker, Gary, moved into the service to make sure he was available 24/7 – that’s just how dedicated they are.
“It was really scary, but most evenings we had catch up calls with the coronavirus response team. They were there all times of the day and night, it was nice to feel like you weren’t alone.”
FitzRoy set up a coronavirus response team as soon as the pandemic began, to manage FitzRoy’s response to coronavirus. They are also on hand to offer support and guidance in an outbreak.
We also have an amazing regional response team. Staff volunteer to join, and can then be deployed to a local service where staffing levels are critically low in an outbreak.
Denise said: “My team were finally able to breathe a little when we had three members from the regional response team move into our service – I was overjoyed when they arrived. Everybody knew what they were doing and everybody had their part to play.
“The hardest part was when we had four people we support positive at one time, that was the evening when I was on the phone to FitzRoy’s head of quality Kirsty – I was worrying about how I was going to keep everyone safe. We had two residents, Ted and David, in hospital. That was really frightening, for them as well as for us, and even harder that we couldn’t see them. Ted was in hospital for four weeks, we are so glad he is back at Webb House now.
“We are such a sociable house and it felt so strange for the house to be so quiet, so we decided to have a party. The people we support did all the work in arranging it, making cards, decorations, sorting the food, it was such a joyous day. Of course, you always have the thought in the back of your mind that you could have another outbreak, so we are still following procedures rigorously.
“We have all had our first vaccination now, and when I had mine I did think ‘this is the light at the end of the tunnel for us’. At times, it felt like we were in the trenches in the war, it was awful but I’m proud to say we all got through it.”
Support worker Gary said: “Our outbreak happened so rapidly, staff were testing positive really quickly and the people we support too. We were really worried about it, it was a really scary time.
“It came to the point where we needed people from the regional response team and also our own staff to move in, and I jumped at the opportunity – I wanted to do everything I could to help. It was such an intense experience, Webb House is such a vibrant and sociable place normally, so to see the people we support isolating in their rooms was by far the hardest part.”
Maxine, who is a resident at Webb House, said: “It was really boring self isolating in my room but the staff sat with me and cheered me up, they painted my nails and made the time go quickly.”
Denise continued: “I am incredibly proud of my whole team. They have managed to make the best out of the hardest of situations. They kept calm and did their jobs, and still found a way to have a laugh and make the people we support smile. Since the outbreak the team have all said they feel a lot closer, the experience has really made us stronger as a team.”