February 9 marks the one-year anniversary since Juniper became the first Residential Aged Care provider in Western Australia to report a COVID-19 outbreak at Juniper Cygnet in Bentley.

The Juniper team was swift in its response, implementing existing plans and adapting quickly to change.

Whilst this by no means a title any aged care provider wants, our response initially and to the ongoing pandemic has shown that when we have the courage to pull together, we can meet difficult challenges.

In a key learning from the Eastern States experience, communication to the families of residents and the wider Juniper community was open and constant, so families were kept up-to-date with developments and Juniper’s response.

In the first wave of outbreaks in 2022, we welcomed support from the Commonwealth Government through the deployment of the Australian Defence Force at several locations, including at Rowethorpe campus in Bentley and in Fitzroy Crossing.

Juniper established a crisis management team made up of a COVID-19 Command Centre to lead the initial stages of our response, and the COVID-19 Response Team, whose priorities and function were to support services and staff during the pandemic and minimise the spread of the virus.

Juniper also created, changed and adapted COVID-19 management plans unique to our different service areas to ensure we were following best practices in Infection Prevention and Control measures.

As history often shows, positive change results from a crisis. For Juniper, the outbreak at Cygnet kicked-off and expediated the introduction of Partners In Care. The initiative recognised the importance we place on companionship, care and connectedness between our residents and their families and representatives.

Juniper also launched Juniper Connect, utilising technology to connect families and residents.

Both initiatives have stood the test of time and now form part of our business-as-usual response to COVID-19. In line with community and State Government response, Juniper’s business as usual model prioritises safety of residents and staff, strong Infection, Prevention and Control but weighs this up with proportionate risk approach where our first response is “yes” – let’s find a way to make connections happen.

Another gain has been our excellent understanding of Infection, Prevention and Control protocols. Now with lived experience, skills and knowledge, we have been able to apply this knowledge across all infection risks, including influenza and gastroenteritis for the betterment of residents, clients, ourselves and our colleagues.

The pandemic has also prompted a new respect and regard for aged care workers, recognising us for the true community heroes we are.

The experience gained and lessons learnt from being the first provider with a COVID-19  outbreak in Western Australia benefits us for any future challenges we face. We have the first-hand experience, knowledge and skills to keep each other and our residents and clients safe as we move forward.

All this wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication, hard work and courage of every Juniper staff member.

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