This year has not started as we had hoped. The rapid spread of the COVID Omicron variant has been dramatic and has impacted the community significantly.
Over these past few weeks our residential homes, day support and OCCE operations have experienced a number of positive tests from staff and participants. This has resulted in a number of challenges including staff shortages.
WHAT IS OC CONNECTIONS DOING IN RESPONSE?
The current situation is testing us like never before. We have been and will continue to prepare for this further development and our emergency response plans are being revised in response to every change to Government directions and requirements.
We will continue to be transparent in our communication and let our community know changes as they happen.
Visits to houses will be limited to outdoor visits only; and visitors must wear a mask.
Staff are wearing N95 masks and eye protection to maximise the safeguarding for participants and staff. Any COVID positive residents are being isolated where able, through consultation with participants and families, either at alternative sites or within their house with seperate entry and exit points, designated support staff in Tier 3 PPE and robust infection control measures in place.
We have implemented more “operation bubbles” across all services to help us contain the virus should one area be impacted by a positive case and keep other areas as safe as we can. While it is by no means a guarantee, it should assist in containing the virus.
It is important that our community is aware of the intensity of the impact of Omicron over the coming weeks and work with us to ensure that we can continue to keep people as safe as possible. This may require quarantine and testing outside of the general community requirements, but this is necessary to ensure that all participants and staff remain saf and so we can continue to provide services wherever possible.
STAFF SHORTAGES IN DISABILITY
Nearly all industries have been impacted by staffing shortages due to direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19.
OC Connections is also feeling this impact, with shortages across our operations, but mostly in our accommodation homes. We have managed with the additional use of agency staff to backfill rosters and in some instances, we have reverted to providing “essential services” only. At present agency staff are difficult to access and the Government “surge workforce” is almost non-existent and not accessible.
Over the last two years, we have been vigilant in our infection control procedures, ensuring capacity requirements and density limits were adhered to; we have ensured our residents in our community living homes have been vaccinated, and now boosted, before any assisance has been offered from the Government. We are continually grateful and appreciative of the support of our staff in ensuring the safety of our community.
However, we are now at a critical point in time, where none of these matter if we cannot ensure the safety of both our staff or participants without the necessary testing measures.
We are continuing to work around the clock to secure rapid antigen tests (RATs) and when able to secure supply, we are using these to test residents and staff who are on site.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
As a result of staff shortages, we may need to change ratios of support and change the outing or destination planned for residents and participants. In such cases, families and participants will be advised and we ask for your cooperation and understanding. This will only be actioned to keep people safe and for the minimum amount of time possible.
We are asking our community to support our staff through kindness and understanding during this time.
You can also assist by sharing the need for more staff with your community. If you know of anyone who is able to work in this environment, has the relevant checks and qualifications, and is not currently working onsite with another disability provider, please have them get in touch with us by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 9569 0603.
If you or your family member are eligible for your booster please get it as soon as you can. People who have had the booster have much more protection against Omicron than those who haven’t. You are eligible to get it if you had your second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine more than four months ago. Find out more about the booster.
We ask that participants send in confirmation of their booster to email@example.com
The most important thing is if a returning participant has had COVID it must be 7 days after their positive test and they must be symptom free. Further, it is a requirement that no one else in the participant’s household has had the onset of symptoms in the past 7 days.
WHAT IS NEXT?
Your ongoing patience and understanding has underpinned our efforts and success to date in keeping our community safe. Unfortunately, COVID will continue to challenge us for some time. We will continue to keep you updated as to any changes to services or COVID requirements and do everything we can to keep people safe.