Coronavirus Update

 

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Please find the following information providing staff with an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuation of Pandemic Restrictions: 
You would be well aware there is increasing dialogue about how, and when, Australia will commence relaxing many of the pandemic-related restrictions placed on us, both personally and professionally.

At Mercy Connect, we have proactively responded to this evolving pandemic, with the safety of our participants and staff being at the forefront of all decision making. This approach has resulted in a range of necessary changes being implemented in quick succession since March.

I know there may be some people questioning this conservative approach; especially when other disability / health providers may not have implemented the same level of response. Further, I am fully aware of how our staff and participants (and their families / carers) have been directly impacted, inconvenienced and frustrated by these changes.

This pandemic remains an unprecedented situation; there is no clear roadmap or rulebook on how best we navigate through this period of time. However, I must stress that we will not get a second chance to introduce preventative measures if a COVID-19 outbreak does occur within our offices, accommodation, day programs or outreach services.

The unpredictable nature of COVID-19 highlights the inherent difficulty in demonstrating the effectiveness of any infection control and risk management practices. We will only know if we haven’t done enough when things go bad; hind-sight bias will not view us favourably if we didn’t do everything that was reasonably necessary to prevent harm. As such, we are continuing to monitor all government advice, including the daily reported cases of COVID-19 throughout NSW / Australia, and will make any necessary changes to our approach in due course.

However, with the traditional flu season about to commence in these colder months, it is likely that our current organisation-wide restrictions (including interim roster changes) will remain in place for some time. Please note that we are currently exploring options to reintroduce some form of centre-based day programs; however, this will be done in a safe and consistent way, that doesn’t undermine our existing infection control practices and restrictions.

Importantly, staff will be interested to note a UNSW report (https://www.sbs.com.au/news/dangerously-unprepared-disability-workers-feeling-unsafe-during-covid-19-pandemic) recently released (4 May) which shares the initial experiences of the disability workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak; the report surveyed more than 2,300 disability workers and shows how COVID-19 has massively increased the risks of working in disability services.

Key findings from the report included:

  • There was an urgent lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) being supplied to staff and clients, and many workers felt their organisation’s safety protocols have been inadequate in the context of COVID-19.
  • There was a widespread perceptions that the disability workforce is being dangerously overlooked in pandemic response, and many workers were worried about the ongoing impacts of lack of planning in their organisation and for the disability sector as a whole.
  • Workers have been particularly worried about day programs and community access activities remaining in operation; group homes remaining open to other workers delivering NDIS services and supports to residents, along with visitors; and disruption to clients’ routines and activities, which has created additional risks to client wellbeing and safety.
  • Staff are extremely anxious about the situation, and workforce issues and additional workloads have made it difficult to respond to heightened health and safety needs.
  • Some workers have lost jobs or shifts and are uncertain about the future of their work, and many expressed concerns about their inability to effectively self-isolate, and the financial impacts of doing so.

In light of these report findings, I remain convinced that Mercy Connect has taken the best possible approach to ensure the safety of its staff, and participants.

JobKeeper Reminder:
As announced last Friday, Mercy Connect is eligible to participate in the JobKeeper Scheme and have registered with the ATO.

All eligible employees are encouraged to nominate, even those who earn $1500 per fortnight or more (gross, including salary sacrifice amounts).

Eligible employees are employees who:

  • Are currently employed by Mercy Connect (including those stood down or re-hired).
  • Were employed by Mercy Connect at 1 March 2020.
  • Are full-time, part-time or long-term casuals (a casual employed on a regular basis for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020).

Today is the last day to complete the attached form and return it to Rochelle Taylor (Payroll Officer). (Please view your work / personal email to access form).

You can email it directly to Rochelle ([email protected]), give to your Team Leader or Manager, or place in the sealed box outside the Reception door at 30 Bottlebrush Street, Thurgoona.

Mental Health during times of Crisis:
During a prolonged crisis, like the one we are all experiencing now, the continual stream of news headlines can sometimes feel overwhelming.

Endless 24/7 stories on television, social media, newspapers and magazines, with the topic likely being regularly discussed within our social groups too. We are more connected to it than ever before.

While there are benefits to staying up-to-date with the news, too much can take a toll on our mental wellbeing.

It is very well evidenced that during such times that everyone, even the most resilient people, can experience negative feelings that may include confusion, exhaustion, tiredness, depression, anxiety, incompetence, vulnerability, uncertainty for the future, and inadequacy.

We are currently living in a world of crisis and trauma, and in this environment, we often cannot make any sense of the events happening to us, or even draw meaning from the experience.

However, it is fair to say that our collective goal right now is to keep things together as best we can, with the fervent hope that we will come through stronger on the other side.

I was recently reminded of the analogy about the man who, whilst languishing in the trenches during time of war, was not seeking meaning; he was asking for bread.

In a similar sentiment the biblical scriptures offer us Matthew 7:7-9 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your sons asks for the bread, will give him a stone?”.

Now is the time for each of us to openly provide, or in fact be, the ‘bread’ for anyone we find in need including our participants, colleagues, and families, and to remain vigilant as to ‘where’ those we care about are; both emotionally and mentally.

I am greatly appreciative of everyone’s continued efforts, compassion and unwavering support during this difficult period, and thank you for your strong commitment to our mission and purpose: to support those in need to live fulfilled lives.

For staff seeking appropriate supports for yourself, or others in need, please note the contact details for Access EAP – 1800 818 728. www.accesseap.com.au

Together we grow.

Trent Dean
Chief Executive Officer