Dear Family and Guardians,
Please find the following information providing you with an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March 2021, Mercy Connect has consistently, and transparently, supported all of our eligible staff and participants to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations.
This has included: regular internal communications regarding COVID-19 vaccinations; provision of dedicated vaccination hubs at our various workplaces (both frontline and administration); and, one-to-one discussions between staff, participants (including families / guardians) to assist with decision making and achieving informed consent.
As the state and national restrictions start to ease across Australia, it is becoming increasingly likely that all disability workers / staff in contact with people with disability will soon be required to have their COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of work. This mandate may come from either a legislated Public Health Order, or from a ‘lawful and reasonable direction’ provided by an employer, like Mercy Connect.
Mercy Connect holds a duty of care for its participants (and their families / guardians) to provide a safe and healthy environment. I am concerned that with the easing of restrictions, the highly-infectious Delta strain of COVID-19 will rapidly pass through our regional communities and, sadly, it will be the most vulnerable that are impacted; our participants and any staff with underlying health conditions. Nonetheless, I remain confident that our Mercy Connect staff do recognise the protection that vaccination provides them, and those around them. We continue to strongly encourage all staff (and participants) who are eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccination (or seek a medical exemption) to do so, as soon as possible.
Easing of NSW / Victorian COVID-19 Lock-down Restrictions
Following this week’s NSW / Victorian Government announcements relating to the easing of pandemic restrictions, particularly within regional areas, I would like to provide everyone within our Mercy Connect family with the following updates to our programs and services:
- In line with the ongoing ‘stay at home’ orders, there will be no change to the existing Accommodation / Day Program / Central West Office (Illamatta Way) lock-down restrictions, until further notice.
Cowra, Wagga Wagga, and Albury Wodonga
- In line with the easing of regional restrictions within various LGAs, please be aware of the following changes / updates:
- Mercy Connect owned / managed homes remain closed to the public.
- 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.
- Participant family / guardians (who sign COVID-19 free declaration and have not recently visited any declared COVID-19 hotspots) may visit with participants outside of their shared / group home.
- Participants are still not permitted to have overnight visits at family / guardian homes, until further notice.
- Mercy Connect owned / managed homes remain closed to the public.
- Day Programs:
- We are currently monitoring both the “Disability service providers / Advice to residential disability care facilities (RDCF)” sections of the NSW Health website (https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/disability-latest-advice.aspx and https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/disability-support.aspx), and have based the following directions on the current, available advice (last updated 5 September 2021).
- Mercy Connect’s normal, structured Day Program services will likely recommence from 20 September 2021, with Day Program activities only to be offered within Mercy Connect owned / operated homes until that date.
- However, recommencement of Day Program services will be in line with COVID-19 restrictions (including any group size / space limitations) and may require different cohorts of participants to be supported separately i.e. those living in shared / group homes; those living separately and not in shared / group homes.
- Participants are still not permitted to attend any external Day Program facilities / activities until further notice (in line with the aforementioned NSW Health advice).
- Residents from the same Mercy Connect owned / operated homes may visit outdoor locations with one (or more) Mercy Connect staff member(s).
- Corporate Office (Albury)
- Albury (St John’s / Thurgoona) office to remain 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 sole discretion of the CEO Office. Until further notice, all external approved 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Corporate Office staff are permitted to attend external meetings (as required, and in line with COVID-19 safe requirements), however they are still strongly encouraged to utilise video / phone conferencing for such purposes, wherever possible.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
A reminder, that all staff (and any approved external visitors) are required to wear appropriate PPE at all times when with participants.
You must wear a face mask:
- When you are outside in a public place including;
- on a street or at a park.
- queuing outside a cafe or shop to collect take away food or drink.
- walking on a street near shop fronts.
- In all indoor areas of non-residential premises, including workplaces
- When working in an outdoor area.
You may only remove your mask for the following reasons:
- Eating or drinking.
- Working alone in an office (until another person enters).
- You have documented evidence of a medical exemption to not wear a mask.
Please note that reusable / cloth masks can be worn (subject to regular cleaning and washing) for outside activities; however, disposable surgical masks must be worn at all other times when with participants.
All staff (and approved external visitors) must continue checking-in using the Service NSW QR code, which is located at all Mercy Connect locations.
- These simple steps can help to protect yourself and the community.
- Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing or use your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid close contact with people unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms, and stay home if you have symptoms. https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/health-and-wellbeing/symptoms-and-testing
- Avoid touching your face and avoid shaking hands with others.
- Try to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others and avoid crowded places.
Remember, when washing your hands, all you need is water and soap, body wash or shampoo. It doesn’t need to be expensive, or ‘antibacterial’. The key to handwashing is to wash often and wash well, for at least 20 seconds.
Whilst it is encouraging that our regional locations are starting to reopen, the risk of COVID-19 infection still remains. As such, I kindly remind everyone within the Mercy Connect family to continue to follow the rules and regulations, which are in place for the safety of participants, staff and our wider community.
Together we grow.
Chief Executive Officer