July 30, 2020

Our contact tracing team

Since the start of the pandemic, our infection prevention team are the contact tracing team for COVID-19.

“We educate staff on infection prevention strategies and support them in their clinical and non-clinical duties. Furthermore, we implement strategies to reduce the risk of transmission within the health care facility and now we also work on contact tracing,” explained Madelaine Flynn, Infection Prevention Manager.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying any staff, patients or visitors who have come into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, without the appropriate precautions.

“The infection prevention team become detectives and identify close contacts of a case and notify them of their isolation requirements. This process involves reviewing rosters, performing interviews and reviewing patient notes,” she explained.

Historically, the infection prevention team conducts contact tracing for infections such as measles, chickenpox and influenza. Although this happens sporadically, around one or two per month, since COVID-19 started, our contact tracing team can now trace six to seven cases per day.

“During contact tracing, the team doubles as counsellors when staff or patients get a phone call to notify of an exposure that they were not expecting. In these situations, kindness is always the key,” Madelaine explained.

Nicole Campbell, Infection Prevention Clinical Nurse Consultant, is one of the team members working on contact tracing.

“COVID-19 contact tracing is different than other diseases because of the volume of patients. There is also a lot more anxiety associated with it for staff and patients because of all the unknowns. Part of what we do is reassuring and supporting people in their emotional wellbeing too,” she said.

Nicole adds the team is learning something every day, both from local experience and from overseas, while trying to adapt and support each other.

“When we talk to identified close contacts, we get various reactions. Sometimes it’s hysterical laughter, sometimes it’s tears, and other times anger. We have seen all stages of emotions. That is where we explain things, reassure people and try to support the best we can,” she added.

Madelaine is proud of the work her team is doing, adding, “The infection prevention team has shown incredible resilience in arguably the most difficult time in an infection prevention professionals career”.

There are seven highly skilled infection prevention consultants within the infection prevention team, including a staff health nurse. The team also have an administrative support that helps the team with surveillance.