Epworth HealthCare staff have turned disease detectives as part of Victoria’s fight to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The Department of Health and Human Services has a team of 200 contact tracers, including 65 Epworth staff. Their job is to track down everyone who has been in contact with people who test positive to COVID-19.
Yasmine Previdi, a Nurse Unit Manager at Epworth Richmond, is now managing this group of Epworth clinicians including enrolled nurses, associate unit managers, business development staff and hospital coordinators.
‘Our staff are used to working on the frontline and here they are making a big difference to society by tracing those confirmed as having COVID-19 and asking newly diagnosed people about their activities prior to developing symptoms to identify where they possibly contracted the virus,” Yasmine said.
This can include contacting the person’s colleagues, friends, even their hairdresser to inform them they have been in close contact with someone who has contracted the virus and requesting them to go into isolation.
While it may sound like fascinating detective work, Yasmine says it is not an easy job.
“We are dealing with people who are in very stressful, vulnerable situations. We can often be the first point of contact after they have been diagnosed and there is a horrible stigma around having the virus, as it’s so contagious.
“Our team is also doing welfare and emotional checks on these patients as well; some are in isolation and not speaking to anybody,” Yasmine said.
Usually working in radiology, registered nurse Kristel Castaneda is among Epworth staff on the contact tracing team.
“The most rewarding part of this job is still helping the community to flatten the curve by contact tracing. We don’t necessarily have to be a frontline to help lower the infection rate. We can be in the back office and still save lives,” Kristel said.
Staff in the contact tracing team are provided with a psychologist and emotional support to help deal with the stresses related to this work.