Please find the following information providing staff with an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are pleased to be able to provide participants, families / guardians, and staff with the phased approach that Mercy Connect will take when relaxing current pandemic restrictions.
It is important to note that whilst this plan is progressively implemented, we will continue to monitor government announcements and any future reported cases of COVID-19; this may require any relaxed restrictions to be reintroduced, where deemed reasonable and necessary.
Due to the ongoing, unknown nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remain vigilant and agile in our approach, in accordance with National, State and Mercy Connect guidelines, and be prepared to further amend this plan as required.
As such, the introduction of each detailed phase will be actively monitored, with weekly reviews to be conducted by the Executive Team.
Ongoing infection control precautions will remain in place to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission, whilst supporting desired social interaction and activities.
Such practices include:
Staff must not attend work if they are unwell.
Monitoring participants health status; any coughing, runny nose, shortness of breath or a possible temperature will require the person to be isolated until appropriate people have been notified, and initiating COVID-19 testing and cleaning.
Hand Sanitiser Station to be located at the entrance to the building to be used on entry and exit.
Cough and sneeze technique education.
Use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Social distancing practices.
Frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned during the day and a full clean at the completion of the day, including bathrooms.
1. Day Programs
On the 18 March 2020, Mercy Connect temporally closed all Day Program Centres in order to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 to our participants and staff.
Since that time, participants living in Mercy Connect provided accommodation have been offered Day Programs within their home, whilst all external participants programs have been suspended.
It is proposed that Mercy Connect Centre Based Day Programs will be phased in, over a two month period, whilst ensuring social distancing and infection control practices remain in place.
Phase 1: Commencing from 1 June 2020, Outreach participants who live on their own or with their family / guardian will be permitted to attend.
Phase 2: Commencing from 29 June 2020, external participants who are supported by other organisations will be permitted to attend for a period of 4 weeks.
Phase 3: Commencing from 27 July 2020, there will be a planned return to full day program for all Mercy Connect residents; this will be a revised version of normal day program activities.
On 25 March 2020, all Mercy Connect owned / managed homes were closed to the public, in order to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 to our participants and staff.
Phase 1: Commencing from 1 June 2020, Mercy Connect group homes will remain closed to all non-essential visitors, with Day Program activities continuing at home. Family members / guardians, can continue visiting participants in outside locations only. Participants will still be encouraged to go out for exercise purposes. For those who live independently in Mercy Connect Units, it is proposed that they return to daily activities where possible.
Phase 2: Commencing from 29 June 2020, consideration will be given to the reintroduction of limited group home visits and / or home visits / overnight stays by participants with their families / guardians, with social distancing and infection control practices remaining in place. A formal announcement will be made closer to that proposed date.
Phase 3: Commencing from 27 July 2020, recommence the full day program for Mercy Connect group home residents, with social distancing and infection control practices remaining in place.
3. Corporate Office
From 25 March 2020, both Albury (St John’s / Thurgoona) and Orange (Illamatta Way) offices were closed to the public, in order to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 to our participants and staff, and office-based staff were given the opportunity to work from home, where necessary.
Phase 1: Commencing 9 June 2020 onwards, all Corporate Office-based staff (Albury / Orange) will be expected to return to normal working routines i.e. no longer working from home. This date aligns with the return of normal school attendance for Victorian students between 26 May and 9 June 2020. Social distancing and infection control practices remaining in place.
Phase 2: Commencing from 29 June 2020, consideration will be given to the reopening of all Corporate Office facilities to the external public, including participants. A formal announcement will be made closer to that proposed date.
JobKeeper – Nomination forms open until 31 May:
Thank you to those who have already sent in their forms. Nomination forms can still be accepted up until 31 May 2020.
We have identified a number of eligible staff who have not yet nominated for JobKeeper and who would receive the top-up payment.
As mentioned previously, while the impacts of COVID-19 on Mercy Connect may not be obvious to some, a reduction of funding across SILS and Day Programs have already led to financial losses (turnover decrease of 22.12%). This is why Mercy Connect is eligible for the JobKeeper Scheme.
As restrictions ease, there is likely to be an increase in cases which could prolong the return to business as usual.
Supporting staff through the transition to the new normal:
It is reasonable to expect a range of emotions as we hear increasingly positive news about the physical distancing measures we have been asked to comply with and the easing of these restrictions. The past two months have challenged all of us personally and as we move through the easing of restrictions, many things will no longer look or feel the same, certainly over the next few months.
While we are anticipating and planning for our immediate and medium-term future, we do not know what it looks like for certain. Therefore, we will continue to provide regular updates and support as required. The transition to a new normal may be challenging but please be encouraged that we are on the journey together.
AccessEAP can provide support to staff whatever the nature of the concerns. For a confidential conversation with one of our experienced clinical professionals, please contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728 or www.accesseap.com.au.