6 January 2021
I would first like to wish everyone a ‘Happy New Year!’ and welcome back those staff who have recently returned from personal leave. For those who have worked over the Christmas / New Year period, thank you for your hard work and commitment as you supported our participants during this time. I know that it has been an extremely difficult time for some of our participants and teams, with strict self-isolation and testing regimes impacting what should otherwise have been a restful and blessed time with family and friends.
As we enter 2022, our focus remains on responding to COVID-19. Therefore, it is essential that regular, and accurate, information and updates are communicated to staff regarding key processes and responsibilities.
In recent weeks, some Mercy Connect staff, participants and their families have experienced / are experiencing confirmed cases, or close / casual exposure to COVID-19. For those who have been / are impacted, please reach out to your direct Manager if there is anything Mercy Connect can do to further assist you during this time.
Government advice and information regarding COVID-19 testing and isolation requirements continues to change daily. As such, I strongly encourage all staff to visit the NSW Department of Health website, each day, to review the latest updated guidelines on self-isolation and testing. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/self-isolation-covid-and-close.aspx
Please find below the updated COVID-19 information in line with ongoing advice from the NSW Department of Health (correct at the time of this message).
Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs)
National Cabinet meet on 5 January 2022 announced that COVID-19 tests are free and available at state testing clinics for people who have symptoms or are a close contact.
National Cabinet also agreed that up to ten (10) Rapid Antigen Tests over three months (a maximum of 5 in a month) will be made available free through pharmacies to people holding the following cards:
- Pension Concession Card.
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card.
- Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card.
- Health Care Card.
- Low Income Health Card.
These free tests will become available in the next two weeks. However, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms (and close contacts) should attend a state clinic for free testing and not go to a pharmacy to receive a free test.
To find availability of RATs in your area, visit https://findarat.com.au/
The information below should help provide clarity to staff who are required to be absent from work due to:
- Testing positive to COVID-19.
- Waiting for test results.
- Caring for a direct family member who has tested positive to COVID-19.
Accessing leave during quarantine or self-isolation
The following leave options are available to full-time and part-time staff:
- Annual leave (including annual leave at half-pay).
- Personal / sick / carers leave (paid or unpaid).
- Unpaid leave (is also available to casual staff).
Notice and Medical Certificates
Staff need to provide reasonable evidence that they are not fit for work and may be asked for the following before they return to work:
- Evidence of COVID-19 test results.
- Medical certificates covering absences from work greater than two days.
Staff who do not provide evidence when requested may not be entitled to be paid for their sick or carer’s leave.
Evidence needs to be provided to:
- Direct Manager or Team Leader (for frontline staff).
- Albury frontline staff are to also send a copy to Maddie Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
Return to Work
Staff can only return to work after they have been medically cleared. This means they are feeling well and have:
- Completed any required testing and isolation period.
- Provided evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result.
People who are double vaccinated are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose if:
- you are 18 years and older, and
- have had your second dose of your primary dose course of COVID-19 vaccination at least 5 months ago.
Whilst the COVID-19 booster doses are not mandatory and do not fall under the existing NSW Public Health Order, all Mercy Connect staff are strongly encouraged to receive their booster dose. Presently, staff are not required to send to Mercy Connect Vaccination Information in relation to Booster doses, however any staff member who chooses to do so will have the information stored securely alongside their current COVID-19 Vaccination Information. Staff will be kept updated of any changes, particularly in relation to the current NSW Public Health Order.
Benefits of a Booster dose
Two doses of COVID-19 vaccine provide very good protection, especially against severe disease following potential infection.
A booster dose will make sure the protection from the first dose is even stronger and longer lasting and should help prevent spread of the virus.
A booster dose increases your protection against:
- Infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Severe disease.
- Dying from COVID-19.
A booster dose will continue to protect you, your loved ones and your community against COVID-19. Booster doses are free for everyone.
The attached flyer contains further information for Disability Service Providers
Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Additional Restrictions for Delta Outbreak) Order (No 2) and Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order (No 3) 2021 masks must be worn in NSW in all indoor areas other than a person’s home. This includes waiting for or using public transport. Masks must also be worn in all outdoor places including on the street or in a park.
A staff member or visitor may remove their mask:
- While communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing.
- If wearing a mask creates a risk to health and safety.
- Where clear enunciation or visibility of your mouth is essential.
- When the removal of a face mask is necessary for the provision of a good or service.
A reminder that it is still compulsory for staff and visitors at Mercy Connect to wear masks whilst:
- Attending Day Program (indoor) activities.
- Attending Participant (indoor) interactions.
- Providing direct support to our participants in Accommodation settings.
Masks are strongly encouraged in settings where you cannot socially distance. I strongly urge all staff to continue practising the 1.5m social distancing rules, wearing appropriate PPE, and maintaining hygiene protocols and practices.
If a person cannot wear a face mask because of a disability, physical or mental health illness or condition, they must carry either:
- a medical certificate or letter signed by a registered health practitioner (such as a doctor) or a registered NDIS provider or
- a statutory declaration.
The above guidelines similarly apply to all visitors at Mercy Connect’s facilities.
- Accommodation residencies:
- Two visitors aged 12 years and over plus 2 visitors under 12 years per resident per day.
- All visitors aged 12 years and over must be fully vaccinated (unless in exceptional circumstances for visiting an RDCF)] https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/RDCF-more-information.aspx
- All visitors (Accommodation and Corporate Offices) aged 16 years and over must be fully vaccinated (or have a valid medical exemption).
- All visitors must have proof of vaccination or a valid medical exemption which needs to be sighted before being permitted into Accommodation and Corporate Office areas.
- All visitors must complete the Mercy Connect ‘COVID-19 Declaration’ form prior to entering our premises. All completed forms must be provided to Debbie White at email@example.com.
Residents are permitted to leave Mercy Connect owned / operated accommodation to exercise, for recreational activities or to attend small family gatherings provided they adhere to the restrictions within the Public Health (COVID-19 General) Order 2021 (the Order).
Residents should not leave the accommodation if they have COVID-19 symptoms until they have been tested and have received a negative result.
There are directions in the Order relating to vaccination requirements including that all people aged 16 years and over must be fully vaccinated to visit:
- hospitality venues such as a café or restaurant,
- group classes and activities at recreation facilities,
- retail outlets (not including essential services such as a supermarket or pharmacy).
Residents must wear a mask at indoor venues and when on public transport.
Residents must be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment, infection control and mask wearing advice if they need to leave the facility.
All staff (and approved external visitors) must continue to check-in using the Service NSW QR code, which is located at all Mercy Connect locations.
Mercy Connect communications are also available on the Mercy Connect website.
Whilst we are not yet free of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I cannot promise that the events of the past two years will not be repeated in 2022, I am greatly encouraged by everyone’s ongoing responsiveness and commitment to the wellbeing of our participants, each other, and our Mercy-led organisation. It is highly valued and appreciated.
Please continue to take care of yourselves / each other and seek out opportunities to rest / recuperate wherever / whenever possible, which I appreciate may be somewhat difficult at present.
If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us on 02 60433 500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we grow.
Chief Executive Officer