Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to all staff, who have gone far and beyond their duties to assist in the support, care and wellbeing of our participants. Over recent weeks, I have witnessed and noted many staff who continue to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and undertake duties outside their normal roles. For these clear expressions of compassion and teamwork, I thank each and every one of you.
In light of these challenging times, the Crisis Management Team have been meeting regularly to monitor and respond to this ongoing New South Wales COVID-19 outbreak. To ensure Mercy Connect staff continue to have up-to-date information, please find the following updates, (correct at the time of this publication) relating to the current situation.
Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT)
Mercy Connect is actively sourcing RAT units through our local area contacts. As you would no doubt be well aware, accessing RATs remains difficult and we will provide further updates once they become available.
However, if staff are currently unable to get a RAT, they are encouraged to seek a PCR test if they have any COVID-19 type symptoms and are to self-isolate until a negative result is received.
Return to Work
NSW Health has recently updated its Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (PHO) (No 4) to enable critical workers (including those in health care and social assistance), the opportunity to leave self-isolation and return to work if they have no symptoms.
In accordance with the PHO, workers will only be eligible to leave self-isolation if their absence from the workplace poses a high risk of disruption to the delivery of critical services or activities, and they are unable to work from home.
These workers must wear PPE in accordance with the guidelines below. Mercy Connect will ensure staff returning to work under this exemption comply with the requirements of the PHO.
Any worker who tests COVID-19 positive, or who develops COVID-19 symptoms, must self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
Staff are strongly encouraged to ensure that they have their COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Today, it has been announced that there will be a change to the NSW State’s booster eligibility guidelines, with people now able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine booster three months after their second dose (previously it was four after their second dose).
If you have not yet received your COVID-19 vaccine booster, please follow the link below to book your appointment.
Whilst not yet mandatory, (however, we are awaiting new legislation which will soon require staff to receive a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine booster) if you would like to inform Mercy Connect that you have had your COVID-19 vaccine booster, please contact the People & Culture Team,
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and WHS
Staff who are working with Outreach participants
For the health and safety of staff and participants all Outreach staff must wear full PPE when working in participant homes. Full PPE includes; face mask, shield, gloves and gown. Staff must ‘don and doff’ their PPE between supporting participants and dispose of used PPE within garbage bags provided, which must then be placed into a red-lidded waste bin.
When taking a participant out into the community, you must wear a mask at all times and maintain stringent hand sanitising practices.
When driving a car, you must wear a face mask and glasses, and preferably the participant should also wear a face mask, or sit in the back where possible. There are several participants who are unable or unwilling to wear a mask, and this is appropriate; however, staff must wear a face mask at all times and maintain social distance (1.5m) wherever possible.
KN95 grade face masks have been delivered to all houses, together with relevant information. Mercy Connect is currently awaiting an order of N95 grade face masks for staff use (where clinically indicated) and has secured, where possible, a limited amount for immediate use. However, until this latest order arrives, staff must either use the provided KN95 face masks or surgical masks (double layered where possible), in conjunction with any other required PPE.
Given the requirement to wear full PPE during summer months, please take notice of any signs of heat stress or other heat-illness. Signs include:
- Heavy sweating.
- Cold, pale and clammy skin.
- Fast, weak pulse.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Muscle cramps.
- Tiredness and weakness.
In most cases, you can treat heat exhaustion early by doing the following:
- Resting in a cool place.
- Drinking cool fluids (water is best).
- Loosening clothing.
If you continue to feel hot and become unwell, please notify fellow staff and seek first aid treatment immediately and/or call an ambulance.
In addition to existing infection control strategies, staff are requested to reduce the use of communal dining utensils (cutlery, cups, glasses plates etc) and bring their own to work.
While the use of crockery, cutlery and glassware poses a low risk of COVID-19 transmission, it is also strongly encouraged that participants are allocated their own utensils and do not share them. If this cannot be avoided, it is important that all items are washed adequately between uses.
Corporate and Central West Offices
Both Albury (St John’s / Thurgoona) and Orange (Illamatta Way) offices remain closed to the public until further notice. 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 are advised to avoid attending external meetings and are instead strongly encouraged to utilise video / phone conferencing for such purposes, wherever possible.
A reminder that families / guardians who may have queries, or are seeking an urgent response to an immediate matter, should only be contacting 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 everyone with managing such requests, so we can provide consistent responses without creating unnecessary duplication, or any additional confusion.
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 family communications are also available on the Mercy Connect website.
Please continue to be vigilant and mindful of the above requirements and seek further advice from your Manager and the Government Health sites for further clarification.
Once again, I am sincerely grateful for the incredible commitment and hard work our staff are demonstrating at this time. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us on 02 6043 3500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Together we grow.
Chief Executive Officer