Staff Update 12 January 2022
What new Information from the Government has been released?
On Monday NSW Health released the updated advice for Residential and Home Care Aged Care Providers. This information can be mainly found at the following websites or in links off these websites:
- For Residential Aged Care: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/racf-latest-advice.aspx
- For Home Care Aged Care: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/home-care-latest-advice.aspx
In summary, the advice pretty much confirms what Mercy is already doing. That is, ensuring our staff are wearing masks and that we are performing risk assessments when positive RAT and/or PCR tests occur within our staffing body or a staff member advises that they have been a ‘close contact’ of a confirmed positive COVID-19 person (remembering the new definition of a ‘close contact’ being usually someone you live with or someone you have had close contact with for a period of 4 or more hours).
What PPE is required when working?
For our Residential Aged Care Facility workers, P2 masks are mandatory while working on shift, combined with eye protection
and/or face-shields. Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) are also in place for all workers prior to each shift.
For our Home Care Aged Care workers, surgical masks as mandatory while working, together with eye protection and/or face-shields and other PPE (for example disposable gowns) when interacting with clients or as required depending on the level of care provided (for example, is it personal care?).
What are the testing and isolation requirements for Aged Care Workers?
For Residential Aged Care Workers or Home Care Aged Care Workers - if they:
- Test positive to COVID via a RAT and/or PCR; and/or
- Are identified as a ‘close contact’ of a confirmed positive COVID-19 case
- Need to isolate at home for a period of 7-days;
- Between day-7 and day-10 the worker may come out of isolation if they no longer have any symptoms, but cannot attend any ‘high-risk settings’. Aged Care in a Residential and/or Home Care setting is a ‘high-risk setting’; and
- Between day-10 and day-14 may only attend work following a detailed risk assessment, combined with comprehensive risk mitigation strategies for example, the worker may be required to work in additional PPE during this time period.
When do I need to have a PCR Test?
The Government is asking Residential Aged Care Workers or Home Care Aged Care Workers to obtain a PCR test if:
- They have symptoms of COVID-19 and/or
- They have tested positive in a RAT
You will notice that this is completely different advice to what you will be seeing in the media at the moment. That is because the information in the media at the moment is for the general population and not for workers in ‘high-risk settings’. Aged Care has been classified as a ‘high-risk setting’ and therefore our workers are given priority now over the general public (along with workers in some other ‘high-risk settings’). Now that everyone else in the population has been channelled away from PCR tests in favour of RAT’s, the pathology system has been alleviated from the enormous pressure it experienced over Christmas/New Year and can now focus on proper testing of workers in ‘high-risk settings’. Therefore, when you have a PCR test in the coming weeks or months it is very important that you tell them that you work in Aged Care. This will ensure that your test is expedited through the system to obtain your result as quickly as possible.
What are my responsibilities in terms of COVID-19 vaccination and booster as an Aged Care Worker?
We understand a formal directive is imminent for workers within NSW Aged Care (along with some other specified industries) that COVID-19 Booster Vaccinations will be mandatory to continue working in our sector. We understand that once this directive is published, workers may not be given a great deal of time to comply with the mandate so please prepare for this initiative to be passed in the coming days. If you have already had your COVID-19 Booster Vaccination please inform us of this and provide us with a copy of your immunisation record/Digital COVID-19 Certificate. Once again, this evidence can be forwarded through to [email protected]
What if I have attended a busy venue or function in my private time and it might have exposed me to COVID-19? What do I do before I return to work?
We understand that we all have to live our life as we continue to move through this pandemic and this will mean attending venues and/or functions in our private time where the risk of contracting COVID-19 will be higher. If this is the case we urge you to speak to your Supervisor/Manager or Head of Team so that we can risk assess the situation with you and perhaps put some additional measures or actions in place to try and minimise any risk that may be present. This might mean we put in place additional PPE requirements for example, or we conduct a RAT with you before you attend work next to protect our clients, residents and fellow colleagues as best that we can. As we learn to live with COVID-19, sharing information like this and taking added preventative measures will be crucial in protecting one another moving forward.
What if I contract COVID-19? Is there still financial assistance available through the Government?
Yes. You will find all the information that you need, together with links to make online applications for financial assistance, through the Service NSW website. The most useful link to use is https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/financial-support-individuals-and-households
Where do I go if I have any questions?
If you have any questions please go to your immediate Supervisor/Manager or Head of Team. Your Supervisor/Manager or Head of Team will then be able to seek the appropriate answer out for you and help you through whatever situation is being faced. The weeks and months ahead are likely to remain challenging and working together as a team will continue to be important.
Lastly and once again, thank you for all that you do each day to care for the people Mercy Services supports.
Staff Update 6 January 2022
As you will not doubt be aware if you follow media coverage, many changes have occurred in a very short space of time since the Omicron Variant of COVID-19 landed in Australia and rapidly spread throughout our communities. There have been significant changes to definitions for close contacts, together with changes to the test and isolation requirements that need to occur when people test positive for COVID-19 or someone in their household does.
The Omicron Variant of COVID-19 continues to throw up lots of challenges, which our Federal and State Governments are wrestling. Yesterday our Prime Minister held another Press Conference following what seems to be at present, a weekly meeting of the National Cabinet. In this Press Conference, he spoke about a host of further changes that would come into effect. Most importantly though, he indicated that there will be other changes coming applicable to people working in the Aged, Disability and Healthcare sectors.
Therefore, what you see being advertised for testing and isolation requirements currently, while applicable to the general public, they are not applicable to us as workers within the Aged, Disability and AOD Care Sector. The definitions, along with test and isolate guidelines for us, are still being developed by Commonwealth and NSW Governments and we hope they will be released in the coming days. Currently we are working within a Risk Matrix that the NSW Government released on 21 December 2021. This will change again soon and there will be another one to replace it. Once we have more information available on these changes, we will let you know. In the meantime, please speak to your Supervisor, Manager or Head of Team in the first instance if you are unwell, test positive to COVID-19 or someone in your household has tested positive to COVID-19. They will be the best positioned person to help you through what steps need to be taken.
Of utmost importance is DO NOT come to work if you feel unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19, however mild they might be. You need to contact your Supervisor, Manager or Head of Team straight away and they will provide guidance for you from there.
For workers who usually work in the office, ultimately we would like to see everyone return to working in the office at some point in the near future. Some staff are already doing this and that is fantastic. As the Government keep saying, we need to live alongside this virus and it is likely the virus will remain with us for some time yet. Through our Prime Minister at the Press Conference yesterday, we understand there will be guidelines released in the coming days/weeks around what are employer-responsibilities in terms of testing their workers when they are at work. Once these guidelines are released, we will inform you of them. Staff are still able to work from the office now. Some staff have already returned and we look forward to everyone returning soon. When we work in the office we need to wear masks, keep socially distant from one another and ensure meetings are held in office spaces where windows can be opened or outside. Following these simple principals will decrease the chance of spreading COVID-19 in the workplace if someone inadvertently has it when they come to work. There are many families around the Newcastle and Hunter area who have had COVID-19 in their households already, and many have managed to stop it from transmitting to others within the household by ensuring safety measures just like these are in place. We therefore know that these measures are effective.
Once again, please remain patient with us. There will be new changes applicable to Aged, Disability & AOD Care coming, and these will be different to the changes being regularly discussed in the media at the moment. The measures being discussed in the media currently are for the general public. Aged, Disability & AOD Care will have their own set of measures that will hopefully be released in the coming days/weeks.
Should you have any questions, please speak to your Supervisor, Manager or Head of Team in the first instance. The weeks and months ahead are likely to be challenging. With good and open communication, however, we hope to be able to move through the challenging times as easily as possible. Working as a team will be key.