Dr Nicky Howe – Covid impacts on Southcare – Community Aged Care

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Dr Nicky Howe – Covid Impacts on Southcare – community aged care Comments and Musings

Dr Nicky Howe, CEO of Southcare discusses Covid and it's impact on community aged care

Dr Nicky Howe has been the CEO of Southcare in Perth for several years. Southcare provides in home and community based services to older people in the community. Southcare has prepared well for the challenges of providing services during the Covid-19 challenge. They have been on the front foot and been communicating well with their staff and customers.

In this interview Nicky outlines the lessons from the first 6 months of Covid preparations. Even though WA has not had a second wave Southcare is well prepared and running drills on what they will do if they face Covid infections in their work.

Transcript of podcast episode

DR. Nicky Howe:And I said to the team. Why don’t we operate as if we’ve got? A positive customer. What are we gonna do? Let’s. Let’s not be. Anxious that we might. Get one, let’s. Operate this if we’ve got one, and that really shifted people. It shifted them from anxiety to ambition and wonder. And those moves. Enabled us to really move very, very quickly and. Do all the. Things that you would do. If you’ve got one, so we. Got ahead of the game.

Francis Lynch: My name’s Francis Lynch. Thanks for joining me on the comments and Musings podcast today. I speak to Doctor Nicky Howe, the CEO of South Care, and we talk about the impacts of COVID-19 on her organisation. Welcome, Nikki. Thanks for joining me on the comments and musings podcast. I’m talking to leaders from a range of different organisations in the Community Francis Lynch:health and aged care sectors, about how they’ve adapted to the impacts of COVID-19. 2020. We’re recording this in September, so we’re a few months in now and we’ve made lots of changes about how we have to work. To start off, can you tell? Me a little bit about. South care and and what you’re doing there.

DR. Nicky Howe: Yes. So thank you for the invitation, Francis. So South care is a community and aged care provider. We’ve been in the local community for about 37 years. We’re a not-for-profit and we were started by a group of volunteers. So really at the core of what we do is really about trying to be proactive carer, connector and contributor. in our community. And so our. Aspiration is really about, you know, people feel engaged, supported and part of their local community. So we do community aged care services and a range. Of other

DR. Nicky Howe: community. Services that support people and Aboriginal family support, financial counselling, emergency relief we’ve got. An op shop. I’ve got a very active. Group of volunteers that we call community. Ambassadors and they really. Respond. To different people’s needs. 

Francis Lynch: So I’m wondering about how COVID-19 has impacted your organisation, and I suppose I’m really particularly interested about the in-home supports.

DR. Nicky Howe: Yeah. So, so in terms of the impact. And we, you know, being a community aged care provider, we’ve always had to make sure that we comply with a whole load of standards and regulations and so infection control at one level is just part and part of what are of what we do. And trying to support people in their own environment is at the core of Community

DR. Nicky Howe: home care because. You are working in. Their house? Not in our house like in residential.On the piece, I would say that we really could see what was going on and started. To get ourselves very organised. In February, we’ve got a excellent lady by. The name of. Jodie, who’s our quality and risk advisor? And we really started. To sort of take charge in February, well before and the government directions. And we started some clear decisions about.

DR. Nicky Howe: What we were gonna do. To position ourselves so so. We developed our COVID response team, a COVID response plan. And we started to. Do all the things that we knew that we. Would need to do really to both protect our people, our our customers and also remain connect to. So I think a really big thing when. I think back about. What was it that we did? What made? The difference I would say. It’s a couple of things. One was DR. Nicky Howe: communicating consistently with all our staff. So putting their. anxiety at ease. Around what we’re gonna do to make sure that. They were OK and that their job was so. OK. Really. Communicating a lot with our customers, bringing you know. This was before the social. Distancing, but at I’ll remember. At the social. Centre we already made the decision that we would need to close our social centre because the majority of our people. Were well over 17. Now they weren’t very happy with me when I stood up there and said to them why we were gonna do what we were gonna do. But I said, look, you know, this is. Really about protecting. You and we know that. Connection, you know. That social isolation is really important. So we put in the things that.

Francis Lynch: Yeah, yeah.

DR. Nicky Howe: We needed to do to. Do that so you know we made. Sure. That we did have those. Welfare cheques in place, but I think. If I think about a couple of things big one was around communication and communicating consistently. So I was doing videos every week. The little video. To the staff that we would then. In bed in the southcare Snippet which is our. Local newsletter so that you know we could really. Say to people what we. Were doing as as things started to emerge to really mitigate or not mitigate, but try and reduce their anxiety. Was a big one

Francis Lynch: Yeah. And and.

DR. Nicky Howe: And I think.

Francis Lynch: No, no. I was just going to say so. Do you think that that anxiety was able to be tempered by those processes?

DR. Nicky Howe: Yes, I I do. But I think there was one thing that I did really early on and that was I sent first of all to the quality and risk person, but then we did it to. The team I. Said because we were all anxious about getting a positive customer and therefore what the flow on effect would be. And I said to the team. Why don’t we operate as if we’ve got a positive customer. What are we going to? Do let’s. Let’s not be anxious that we might get one. Let’s operate as if we’ve got one. And that really shifted people. It shifted them from anxiety to ambition and wonder. And those moves. Enabled us to really move very, very quickly and do all. The things that you would do if you’d. Got one. So we got. Ahead of the game.

Francis Lynch: So do you think that you were when you say ahead of the game that you were sort of thinking through some of those Francis Lynch: things earlier than you might have otherwise or compared to other organisations?

DR. Nicky Howe: Definitely, definitely. We, we we were weeks ahead and we could see that you know the government, you know, said oh, you know, social centres should be closed. We’re we’re we were a month ahead of that. You know, we were months ahead of of people, you know, personal protective equipment, we you. Know we knew as a community aged care. Provider we’d be last on the list,  So we got the local Rotary. Club, we know they. Had a sewing group. We talked. To their they started sewing masks for us. They started sewing games for us. So we were always ahead and the other. Thing that we did. Was we made sure the customer was cared and we really looked after our customers. So that we were in constant contact with them. So when they had that

 DR. Nicky Howe: anxiety around saying ohh look, I wanna put my services on hold, you know. So I don’t want people coming into. My house We would say to them. OK, let’s talk about that. You know what are you concerned about? Let’s tell you what we’re doing. And look, let’s leave that with you. But we’ll ring you in a few days. So, you know, originally we had. About 100 customers that. Put all about 50, put all. Services and hold about 50. Put one or two. At the moment, we’ve got 8 who’ve got all their services on hold because. They’re with family and we’ve got 7. Who’ve got one service on hold. So we done really well.

Francis Lynch: So it sounds like you’ve really been able to communicate well with with your customers to be able to communicate all of your planning and all of your safeguarding.

DR. Nicky Howe: Absolutely. And of course, the flip side of. That is, you know you can’t do any of that if. You’re not looking after. Your people. So we were a lot of work with our own people. We had already the technology anyway. We’d already been using teams and zoom. You know, people had already been working from home. So we just. Advanced that we made sure. Everybody had the equipment that they needed to have. You know, we made sure that people were working. In and out. Of the office. If they were office based because, you know, we wanted to make sure they stayed connected. We set up teams for all our support workers, of course. Who are, you know, out in the community. And so, you know, we make sure that they have their own little teams. We have little quizzes, you know. Guess who’s? You know all of those sorts of things. And all of that, of course continues. And we haven’t stopped any of that. And we, you know, I DR. Nicky Howe: mean we’re in the West and you’re in the east, we we don’t talk about if we talk about when.

Francis Lynch: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And. And so has some of that technology and the use of of these technologies, have they spread into the way that your customers relate to you? Or amongst each other.

DR. Nicky Howe: And look, we certainly did provide some customers with tablets you know with as a way of communicating and a way of then connecting. But I’d say. It was quite minimal. The take up was quite minimal I think. And you know people still want that and. Well, they can’t have that, you know. Face to face. But I think we made sure that. The customers were connected to the. Staff that they knew. It was really like this phone. Calls. I mean now. Of course we’re. Able to do that one-on-one. We still haven’t opened our social centre and I’m not sure that we will for DR. Nicky Howe: some time and you know, we’ve talked to our customers about that and we’ve just opted for one on ones or very small group gatherings. But technology, I mean, I think like everybody, you know, it certainly speeds up how you do, how you, how you use technology. And we even now you know meetings are done on teams. Because some of it’s some are out.

Francis Lynch: Yeah, yeah, I mean that. That has fundamentally changed where I am too. So it’s it’s such a, it’s such a major change in terms of the way that. WA has had a really different experience than Victoria. What’s your footing in terms of your preparation?

DR. Nicky Howe: Look, our footing, our footing in terms of preparation. Is and we have not. Opened up, you know, so we’re at Stage 5. You know, you can do a whole lot of things, but. As an organisation, we haven’t done that. So we’ve held back. As an

DR. Nicky Howe: organisation. And what we’ve done only last week is we’ve done drills. So we’ve, we’ve done customer drills. You know we’ve. Got a positive customer, blah blah blah. What we did last week was we did a drill with an external provider that provides some of our nursing services. And so that we’ve positioned that. We’ve also learned lessons from what you guys have. Got over the over. East, you know, home care providers. In the east and we, we’ve increased the number of PPE and the, the the goggles and the. Shields, which we didn’t have, so. I guess what I would say to you, Francis, is we we’re not operating as if we’re all dandy here. We we’re very much operating and in a space of preparedness you know the the girl, the Girl Guides and the and the Scouts, the Scouts and the girl guides, you know, like we’re prepared we are ready. We’ve recently identified who in the admin staff have got nursing backgrounds or care DR. Nicky Howe: backgrounds. If we’ve gotta have a surge. Workforce. So all. Of us, you know, I’ve got a. Nursing background, although it was a long time to go And you know we’re. All going we’re doing the donning and doffing of the PPE Next week. So we’re going OK if we take if it takes.Out 10-15 support workers. Who’s Gonna back that up ?!. So we we we’re making sure. That you know. We’ve got that in place. And if I. Get you know if I get taken out. Then who? What are? What are the roles? Functions that I do. Who else can do those? Roles and functions.

Francis Lynch: Yeah, yeah.

DR. Nicky Howe: All of that.

Francis Lynch: And and. Given that. You know, many of your customers are older and in the higher risk category have have customers been telling you what they want or what they expect you to be doing or are they really are waiting to see what happens?

DR. Nicky Howe: Look, I think that’s mixed, you know. You like like like. Everybody, I mean, we’re all individuals and some customers. Are are, you know they want a? Lot of information and they wanna. Tell you you know they. Want you to tell them a lot.

Others are sort of sitting back. So I would say. It’s very much based on that individual, but also on. their family. So you. Know as a community care. Provider we see ourselves as. One of the partners in looking after that senior. So it’s not just us. It’s their family. It could be their partner. Their loved one. You know their daughter, their son or daughter-in-law. So we see ourselves as part of that whole. So it’s really engaging with all of them and. Saying, well, you know some want want a lot of information. You know they wanna know well, where’s the PPE? What would happen? So we’ve got all tha In place and we. We we, you know, we let them know. DR. Nicky Howe: Depending on how much information they want.

Francis Lynch: Do you think that South care and your decisions have been impacted by any other sectors?

DR. Nicky Howe: Ohh well, you know when we talk about sector, I mean I see us as part of the bigger healthcare sector. So I certainly think because you know of what we know and and. Of, you know, Primary Health or emergency health, I mean certainly. We’re very aware of what’s going on and of course, in the beginning, you know this. Whole issue of. You know people who were in residential aged care, you know about them going to hospital and and that assumption that they wouldn’t go to hospital and I don’t wanna get into that political debate But I think for. Us we’re, we’re. Very in tune with with what’s going on. With hospitals, but also because. We are a community. Service provider we are DR. Nicky Howe: very in tune with what is about to come when those government and you. Know the the. The 20/29th  the 28th . Of September, I mean. We provide emergency Relief Financial Council. We we are gearing up for that. That because we know. That the community sector is really gonna feel it. You know Once those you know, the monitorial on banking and utilities, the change to job keeper and job seeker. And once job seeker reduces by that $200.00 you know we we’re gonna be inundated with people. Who are gonna need some? Sort of financial and food relief. So we’re ready for that.

Francis Lynch: Yeah, and and you know. Where I am, we’re doing exactly the same. So one last question, how do you think that the next couple of years in your organisation might be affected by COVID?

DR. Nicky Howe: We’ve increased our revenue by a million. Dollars in the last year. We’ve retained a really good surplus and we are in a essential service and we are in a growth industry. So we are very. Privileged in terms of what we do and I think for us, if we keep doing what we’re doing and maintain the confidence of our. Customers and our local community, and I think we’ll do really well, you know and we’re positioning, we’ve positioned ourselves strategically. We’ve got a new strategic plan. And so I I think we’ll go from. Strength to strength.

Francis Lynch: And and I mean it’s crystal ball to be honest at the moment, but let’s hope that the COVID experience is you know that we don’t get lots of outbreaks across the states that are going well at the moment and that. You know, I do wish that for you and and really for the rest of us as well. So look, thank you very much for your time and and your Francis Lynch: thoughts and. Look it. It’s. I’m. I’m really interested in in how different organisations and different parts of the sort of community and aged care sectors are going. So your thoughts have been much appreciated.

DR. Nicky Howe: Well, thank you for the opportunity, Francis, and all the best with what you’re going through. At the moment.

Francis Lynch: Thank you.