Coronavirus Update: NSW Border Closure

Monday 6 July 2020

Good afternoon all,

Please find the following information providing staff with an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

NSW Border Closure
With the worsening of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, and today’s sudden announcement from the NSW Government that the NSW border will close with Victoria from midnight tomorrow (7 July), the Mercy Connect Pandemic and Infection Control Working Group has met again this morning to confirm our immediate response.

Importantly, Mercy Connect remains an essential service.

We will continue to provide our supports to all participants we serve (and their families / guardians) whilst ensuring our housing and many activities and programs remain safe, as reasonable and necessary given the ongoing challenges.

Please find a range of important information for your immediate awareness and reference; if you have any further questions or require more clarification, please contact your immediate line manager.

The Border Mail has provided a FAQ for residents across the border to view. Click here to view.

Victorian Residents – Staff
We are still seeking further clarity on the impacts of the imminent NSW / Victorian border closure, and any steps Mercy Connect needs to take to support its staff to continue working.

There has already been media references to people needing to apply for a ‘special permit’ or ‘exemption’ from NSW Services to cross state borders.

Until we fully understand the NSW Service application process, all impacted Mercy Connect staff will be able to request a formally-signed letter from the Office of the CEO outlining our essential work and the need for staff to cross the border – either direction.

Please contact Rosie Busuttil (EA to CEO) if you would like to receive a copy of this letter. It will be essential that staff have this letter, with their Mercy Connect Identification Badge, at them at all times when travelling to work.

Victorian Residents – Participants 
We will continue to provide support to our many Outreach participants located within Victoria, subject to staff receiving their ‘special permit / exemption’, or CEO-signed letter.

At this stage, we are unsure of the impacts the border restrictions will have on participant families / guardians; we will provide further updates on this once known.

In the meantime, Operations Management / Team Leaders are encouraged to contact participant families / guardians to ensure regular communication is maintained between participants and their loved ones.

Pandemic Restrictions 
Please note the following changes to ongoing current pandemic restrictions:

Albury Orange
Day Programs
Remains at Phase 1:

 

a)      Outreach participants who live on their own or with their family / guardian will continue to attend.

b)      External participants who are supported by other organisations are still not permitted to attend.

Remains at Phase 2:

 

a)      Outreach participants who live on their own or with their family / guardian will continue to attend.

b)      Participants living in Mercy Connect accommodation will continue to attend full day programs activities, as required.

c)       External participants who are supported by other organisations are still permitted to attend for a period of 4 weeks. A signed information sheet / declaration will need to be completed by each family / guardian.

 

 

 

 

Accommodation
Reverts back to Phase 1:

 

a)      Commencing from midnight 7 July 2020, Mercy Connect group homes will be again closed to all non-essential visitors, with Day Program activities continuing at home (Albury).

b)      Approval for essential visitors must be obtained from the CEO  and or / Executive Leader – Clinical Services.

c)       Family members / guardians, can continue visiting participants in outside locations only.

d)      Participants may not have day trips to family / guardians homes.

e)      Participants may not have overnight stays.

f)       Participants will still be encouraged to go out for exercise purposes.

g)      For those who live independently in Mercy Connect Units, it is proposed that they continue daily activities where possible.

Remains at Phase 2 (with limitations):

 

a)      Mercy Connect group homes will remain closed to all non-essential.

b)      Family members / guardians, can continue visiting participants in outside locations.

c)       Participants will continue to encouraged to go out for exercise purposes.

d)      For those who live independently in Mercy Connect Units, it is proposed that they continue with daily activities, where possible.

e)      Participants may have day trips to family / guardian homes; however, still no overnight stays. A signed information sheet / declaration will need to be completed by each family / guardian.

 

Corporate Office (Thurgoona, Albury) Central West Office (Illamatta Way, Orange)
Remains at Phase 1:

 

a)      All office-based staff may continue with normal working routines i.e. no longer working from home. Social distancing and infection control practices remaining in place.

b)      All Mercy Connect Staff must sign in / out, upon entering / leaving the office.

c)       Approval for essential visitors must be obtained from the CEO and / or Executive Leader – Clinical Services.

d)      Office-based staff (excluding Operations Team staff) who normally reside in Victoria may request to work from home until such time as the NSW border reopens. This decision will remain at the sole discretion of the relevant line manager.

e)      Office remains closed to the external public, including participants.

f)       Meetings of more than two people may continue subject to room size and strict adherence to social distancing requirements.

Progresses to Phase 2:

 

From 29 June 2020:

a)      All office-based staff will continue with normal working routines i.e. no longer working from home. Social distancing and infection control practices remaining in place.

b)      All Mercy Connect Staff must sign in / out, upon entering / leaving the office.

c)       Office remains open to the external public, including participants.

 

Workforce Retention Bonus Grant – Residential Care and Home Care
There has been several reported instances of Mercy Connect staff inquiring about their personal eligibility for the Workforce Retention Bonus Grant – Residential Care and Home Care.

Please note that this is grant scheme is not available to those working within the disability sector; it is only available to eligible Aged Care workers.

PPE and Infection Control
Ongoing infection control precautions will remain in place to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.

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 Stations located at the entrances of buildings to be used upon entry and exit.
  • Currency of 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.

Staff must not travel to known COVID-19 hotspots, nor undertake any unnecessary travel (outside of work reasons) to or from Victoria, and must abide with all Federal / State Government guidelines.

If staff have already visited a COVID-19 hotspot, health authorities recommend that they get COVID-19 tested, and may attend work if they are asymptomatic while waiting for their results.

Anyone with the following symptoms should be tested:

  • Fever, Chills or Sweats.
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Running nose.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste.

Please be assured that Mercy Connect has already purchased sufficient quantities of PPE, and will continue to provide PPE for all Mercy Connect front-line staff.

Whilst these remain complex and challenging times, I remain confident that Mercy Connect will overcome this unprecedented health crisis and continue to support those in need to live fulfilled lives.

Together we grow.

Trent Dean
Chief Executive Officer