As has been heavily reported in the media, there continues to be an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases throughout New South Wales, including our Albury Wodonga and Central West communities.
This remains a challenging period of time, particularly for participants and their families / guardians, as we respond to this latest rise in cases due to the increased transmissibility of the reported Omicron variant.
Our teams continue to regularly contact nominated family members and guardians in light of this evolving situation, and we recognise and acknowledge expressed feelings of concern, stress and worry during this time.
Mercy Connect continues to work closely with the NSW Department of Health and NDIA / NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission and will adopt further measures as recommended or advised, to maintain the health and wellbeing of our participants and staff.
Please be assured that since March 2020, and particularly over recent weeks, Mercy Connect has taken extensive steps and introduced strict protocols to reduce the risk to our participants and staff of COVID-19, in line with guidance from the Australian Government Department of Health and the NSW Department of Health. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Enforcement of mandatory staff COVID-19 vaccinations, and encouragement of recommended COVID-19 booster(s) (until mandated).
- Encouragement of participant COVID-19 vaccinations for those eligible and whose informed consent has been given (either personally or from their legal guardian).
- Social distancing.
- Full, forensic surface cleaning of all Mercy Connect properties and facilities.
- Increased hand washing protocols, including extra signage, hand sanitiser units and reminders for staff.
- Temporary transition of Day Program activities away from ‘centre based’ to ‘at home’ to reduce avoidable contact and group sizes.
- Restricting on-site visitors at Mercy Connect properties and facilities.
- Frequent reminders for staff to stay home if they feel unwell.
- Ensuring staff have access to suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (including masks, face-shield, gloves and gowns) where required, which is necessary to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Use of QR Code scanning at all Mercy Connect facilities and properties.
At this time, we have implemented strategies to isolate any impacted participants, and our staff are wearing additional PPE during all interactions with them. Community-based programs have been cancelled and Mercy Connect owned / operated properties and facilities remain closed to external visitors (subject to extraordinary requests and approval).
I know this is very concerning for all involved and want to assure you that we are taking every reasonable precaution to maintain the health and wellbeing of our participants and staff, and to continue to provide our participants with the highest standard of care.
All Mercy Connect Day Programs, across all sites, remain closed for two (2) weeks. A decision whether (or not) to recommence Day Program activities will be made at the end of the two-week closure. It is likely that all Day Program staff will continue to work a 10am-3pm shift from a shared / group home, instead of their usual place of work, or (where approved and appropriate) request to take annual leave during this time.
Mercy Connect owned / managed homes remain closed to the public until further notice. This includes, but is not limited to, family members / carers, external contractors and suppliers. Exceptions to this directive will be at the discretion of the CEO Office and Executive Leader – Clinical Services.
Participants will not be permitted to attend any external Day Program facilities / activities during this time, with Day Program activities only to be offered within the Mercy Connect owned / operated home.
Corporate and Central West Offices:
Both Albury (St John’s / Thurgoona) and Orange (Illamatta Way) offices are now closed to the public. This includes, but is not limited to, participants, family members / carers, external contractors and suppliers. Exceptions to this directive will be at the discretion of the CEO Office.
Corporate Office staff have been advised to avoid attending external meetings and are instead strongly encouraged to utilise video / phone conferencing for such purposes, wherever possible.
Free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs):
Concessional access to RATs will commence on 24 January 2022, which will permit concession holders (including all eligible participants) to receive ten (10) RAT units, in total, over three (3) months with a maximum of five (5) a month. Participants (or with staff, where required) will need to attend their local pharmacy, present their relevant concession card, and then will receive their allocated RAT units.
For those families / guardians who may have queries, or are seeking an urgent response to an immediate matter, please limit your call(s) to only one nominated Mercy Connect Team Leader or Manager (i.e. contact should not be made with other Corporate Office / Administration staff). This will greatly assist us with managing such requests, so we can provide consistent responses without creating unnecessary duplication, or any additional confusion.
We remain hopeful that this current surge in cases will decline over the coming weeks, and I sincerely thank your participant families / guardians for their continued patience, as our diligent teams do their absolute best, despite ongoing challenges, to those receiving our support.
Together we grow.
Chief Executive Officer