In April NWSS set out its plans for managing the COVID-19 pandemic on the opening page of its website.
As the situation changed, updates were posted in the STAFF MEMO folder in the main menu.
NWSS implemented a very rigorous lockdown in its shared homes and carefully monitored contact with clients living in their private homes. Considering that most of our service was within North West coast outbreak hotspots we have remained remarkably virus free at this stage and hope we can continue this trend.
The safeguards we have been following include:
- Adhering to all State government restrictions
- Clients not attending events outside their homes
- Support teams working in one location only and not moving between shared homes and individual contracts as much as was possible
- No non-essential visitors to shared homes
- A reduction in non-essential supports for clients living in private homes
- No use of staff-owned vehicles for client transport
- The constant use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in all support contracts
- Taking shared home client temperatures each morning and evening
- Strict cleaning protocols for all shared homes and NWSS vehicles
- Signage and clear instructions for hand and coughing hygiene
- The immediate reporting to the Tasmanian Health Hotline if any clients exhibit virus symptoms
NWSS will, in the first instance, follow the directions issued by the State Government and then work out how to apply the directions in our service.
The families of clients living in our shared homes may have differing views on how the restrictions should be lifted and at what pace but, they must consider that the people living in these homes have very different levels of vulnerability according to age and health.
Our approach will be to negotiate the lifting of restrictions with individual clients and their families. This gives us the chance to balance client and staff safety and client and family wishes and make sure that clients and families understand the risks to all people involved.
We have three areas to consider in the recovery:
- Supporting clients who receive support in their private homes
- Supporting clients who live in our shared homes
- Supporting clients who will begin to move between day support services, community groups and NWSS
The general issues we will need to consider are:
- The approaching winter period and how it may impact on clients
- The ability of clients and their families to understand social distancing, personal hygiene, the use of masks and the level of support needed to comply with safeguards
- The ability of clients to make informed choices in relation to risk and personal safety
- The various health conditions, vulnerability to infection and the support needs of individuals sharing accommodation
The issues to be worked through in shared homes include:
- Visitors to homes
- Client movements in and out of the home
- Vehicle use
- The protocols needed for the above
In our visits to private homes we will need to negotiate:
- the expectations the service will have of each client
- home visits and trips into the community
- the use of private staff vehicles
- The protocols needed for the above
Where clients are returning to day support and other groups in the community, where they can be moving between highly regulated environments and high risk environments, NWSS will request detailed protocols from service providers on how our clients will be kept safe in these locations so that we can be sure of the risks we indirectly face.
This is going to be a delicate process and I thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we move into the first stage of lifting restrictions.
The Direct Service Manager, Lee-Anne Aulich will Direct Service Coordinators to commence negotiating immediately with families on the lifting arrangements for each situation.
As we negotiate with clients and families, we will get them to sign off on the arrangements that are agreed to.
Please bear in mind that If there is a second wave of COVID-19 we may need to return to heightened safety measures.
Thank you for your co-operation.
The Management Team