COVID-19 Staff Update, 8 April
I am pleased to share with you a letter I received from the District’s Consumer Council – attached. These sentiments are shared by the WSLHD Board, our Executive team and our community. You are all doing an outstanding job, and I feel privileged to work with you as Chief Executive of our District during this extraordinary and difficult time.
Partnering with our consumers is more important than ever, and I would like to thank all of our consumer representatives for continuing to connect with us via videoconference and other technologies.
Yesterday, only six new patients with COVID-19 were referred to our community service. We are continuing to work closely with local Residential Aged Care facilities to support them in infection prevention and control and patient care. This will help to make sure patients receive the best possible care while minimising non-essential hospital transfers.
Along with our Mental Health team, WSLHD interpreters are now contributing to state-wide efforts by providing phone-based support to travellers who are quarantined in hotels across Sydney.
Health screening has now been introduced across our hospitals and community health centres, to protect our staff, patients and visitors. This was a significant undertaking and I would like to thank everyone involved in making this happen at such short notice.
Understandably we are receiving questions from staff about the screening process. Please find attached answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). We will add to these FAQs over time, and you will always be able to find the latest information on our COVID-19 Staff Information page.
PPE supplies remain a priority for us. This week we received deliveries of masks, goggles, face shields, gowns and antiseptic hand gel at Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals. Supplies will continue to be delivered on a weekly basis.
Staff flu vaccination information and clinic timetables are now available on our intranet page. Annual flu vaccinations are recommended for all health workers, and are mandatory for staff working in Category A – High Risk positions. It is so important to stay healthy right now, so I encourage all of you to visit one of our clinics to get your free vaccination.
As always, please speak to your manager if you have any questions, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Our Staff Wellbeing, Support for Staff and Support for Managers pages are full of information and resources to provide assistance, and AccessEAP is available to provide confidential counselling at any time.
WSLHD Chief Executive
COVID-19 Staff Update, 7 April
Thank you all for your huge efforts to change into the more flexible district we are becoming. This is a brave new world we find ourselves in and it takes a massive commitment to each other and our patients. This is evident everywhere I go, in all of our facilities and services.
While we are still seeing new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed every day we continue to see a flattening of the curve in the rate of new infections. This reduced again over the last 24 hours and is showing good signs of the impact of everyone’s commitment and efforts.
The NSW Government’s announcement today that $100 million will be allocated to support healthcare workers is welcome news.
Funding will also be directed to medical research and vaccine trials, and partnerships to boost domestic supply chains for ventilators and other critical medical equipment.
Given the enormous efforts required of our staff to respond effectively to COVID-19, I would like to confirm that we will not be changing our clinical leadership structure this year. Introducing clinical networks will require logistical and operational changes that our teams simply don’t have the headspace to manage at this time. At this stage, it is likely that we will delay any changes to our clinical leadership structure until early next year.
Today, health screening of all staff, patients and visitors entering our hospitals was introduced at Westmead, Blacktown and Mount Druitt, and continued at Auburn. Thanks for your patience and cooperation while we work to make this process as efficient as we can for everyone who enters our hospitals. Given the swift introduction of health screening this week, understandably many staff have questions. We will provide answers to frequently asked questions in the next couple of days.
All staff are to avoid wearing their uniforms in public areas including on public transport and in shopping centres. Please use the facilities available to change clothes onsite at the beginning and end of each shift. I am deeply disappointed that this has become necessary, but the safety of our staff needs to come first. If you experience any harassment or abuse, I urge you to report it to your manager – we will follow up all incidents.
I appreciate that things are changing rapidly and encourage you to check our COVID-19 Staff Information page regularly for updates. Information is being added to this page daily, and some of the resources include signage for our hospitals and community health centres, and a COVID-19 banner you can add to your email signature.
Please discuss any questions or concerns with your manager, and remember our People and Culture team and your HR Business Partners are also available to support you.
WSLHD Chief Executive
COVID-19 Staff Update, 6 April
Compulsory health screening for staff, visitors and contractors entering our hospitals commenced at Auburn Hospital today. Other facilities will introduce health screening this week. Those who display flu-like symptoms or do not satisfy screening requirements will be referred to our COVID-19 clinics at Westmead or Blacktown Hospitals for assessment.
This requires a significant amount of logistical planning, as well as additional staffing and training. To make it manageable we need to close some of our facility entrances, especially for our larger hospitals with many entry points. We appreciate your patience as we work to put these important, temporary safety measures in place.
It is so important not to come into work at our facilities if you are not well. Please stay at home, seek medical advice if necessary, and wait until you are symptom-free before returning to work. Managers should also continue to check on the wellbeing of their staff during their shifts.
We are currently looking into the provision of short-term accommodation for staff who require isolation which may not be possible at home. I look forward to sharing more details soon.
I would also like to remind everyone that in these unusual times, the usual privacy of information rules and the Code of Conduct still apply. This means that information about COVID-19 testing or diagnoses, for both staff and patients, must not be discussed in public places or on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or any other kind of messaging app.
If you have any questions or concerns about the privacy of COVID-19 information, please contact Dhana Profilio, Privacy and Information Compliance Manager (8860 2550 or Dhana.Profilio@health.nsw.gov.au).
In addition to our main COVID-19 Staff Information page, we now have webpages dedicated to Staff Wellbeing, Support for Staff and Support for Managers. These pages have useful information about our COVID-19 clinics, staff flu vaccinations and keeping safe, as well as resources and access to support.
Your manager, our People and Culture team and your HR Business Partners are also available if you require other advice or assistance.
We want to support you in every way we can.
WSLHD Chief Executive
COVID-19: Compulsory health screening at our hospital entrances
This week we will introduce compulsory health screening on entry for all staff, contractors and visitors to our hospitals.
This will be implemented to provide our hospitals with greater protection against COVID-19.
Auburn Hospital will commence screening tomorrow with other facilities to follow throughout the week.
If a staff member or visitor displays flu-like symptoms or does not satisfy screening requirements, they will be referred to the COVID-19 clinics at Westmead or Blacktown hospitals for assessment.
Further details regarding entry locations and the screening criteria will be shared with you soon.
As mentioned previously, we are asking managers to work with us to ensure staff are screened for flu-like symptoms during their shift.
Staff should not attend work if they are unwell and should not return until they are symptom free.
COVID-19 has significantly impacted the way we live and work and we understand a lot is changing in a short period of time. Please be assured that these temporary measures are being put in place to keep you, our patients and visitors safe.
Thank you for your patience and co-operation as we work together to keep our hospitals safely running for our community.
Vulnerable people risk assessment
On 1 April, the Ministry provided advice to NSW Health in regard to Health Agencies implementing the Prime Minister’s strong advice on 29 March that all vulnerable people should self-isolate.
The Ministry confirmed the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)’s position and this has now been adopted as the current definition of vulnerable workers in relation to COVID-19.
AHPPC’s advice is that people aged 70 years and over, people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions, people with compromised immune systems, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50, are at greater risk of more serious illness.
The most current AHPPC advice on vulnerable people and relevant chronic medical conditions can be found here.
When assessing the risk status of a more vulnerable health worker, Public Health have advised that the following factors should be considered:
Whether the worker meets the AHPPC criteria for people at risk of serious illness
The duration, frequency and closeness of the worker’s interaction with patients
Whether the worker is trained in and able to effectively use recommended PPE when in contact with patients
The opportunity for alternative work to be performed in the workplace or remotely that does not expose the employee to the risk of COVID-19.
WSLHD will assist all staff who identify as a vulnerable healthcare worker to assess their risk and put in place strategies to reduce this risk.
The attached risk assessment tool should be used to identify risk based on personal characteristics, the type and location of work, and the ability for that risk to be reduced or mitigated through alternative arrangements.
In regard to chronic medical conditions and low immunity staff are not compelled to disclose the exact condition, however it is encouraged since the nature of the illness may affect the alternative arrangements that can be put into place. Alternatively, the staff member’s treating doctor can verify the medical condition listed in the AHPPC advice and the recommended mitigation strategy in writing or via a medical certificate.
Alternative work arrangements may include re-deployment to a safer environment in the workplace, or working from home performing normal duties or alternative duties. The use of technology such as Skype and Telehealth should be considered for staff isolating at work or at home. Meetings, ward rounds and patient consultations may be able to take place online or by phone.
If specific arrangements are made for the use of PPE, staff and their managers can seek the advice of Infection Control or Public Health.
Assistance to assess the level of vulnerability or risk can be provided by senior management, Human Resources or Public Health.
Director, People & Culture
Vacation care for school age children
The Department of Education is currently working on a range of options to make vacation care available during the school holidays.
Some of the usual services are now undersubscribed and may not be available. Letting your local school know if you have a need for vacation care will assist the Department in understanding the need and developing alternative options.
If this applies to you, please complete the Department of Education’s School Holiday Care Survey.
Parents or carers with children attending a public school may have already completed the survey.
Survey responses will assist the Department to develop vacation care options for children attending public or private schools.
Contacting local vacation care services now may also assist in preparing for the holiday period. Information about the services operating in each area is available on the Service NSW search page.
Director, People & Culture
COVID-19 Staff Update, 3 April
Firstly, I want to respond to some understandable concerns following media reports yesterday of two of our radiation therapists testing positive for COVID-19.
I have spoken to both of the staff members and they are in good spirits and the teams in Radiation Oncology are providing great support to them.
Please be assured that we have contingency plans and infection control strategies in place to protect our staff, patients and visitors. All staff who have been in close contact with any colleagues who have tested positive will be undergoing self-isolation and close monitoring.
We are also following the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)’s advice in relation to staff who may be more vulnerable to infection, and where possible will be reducing their potential risk through alternative working arrangements. This could mean being temporarily redeployed to another area, or working from home performing usual or alternative duties.
The safety of our staff comes first. If you have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your manager or HR Business Partner.
Our Integrated Care & Community Health teams are currently providing community-based care for 235 patients with COVID-19. Although we had 11 new patients yesterday, 16 people were discharged from the service following their recovery, which is positive news.
Last week, the Ministry of Health published an updated Consent to Medical and Healthcare Treatment Manual. This provides guidance and procedures to ensure legal compliance when obtaining patient consent to tests, procedures and treatment. The updated manual is now available on the NSW Health webpage.
I appreciate everyone’s flexibility at this time. Many of our staff are doing different types of work to focus on the most critical needs. This adaptability is what is helping us to deliver the best possible services, efficiently and compassionately.
WSLHD Chief Executive
COVID-19 Staff Update, 2 April
I am pleased to provide an update on NSW Pathology’s delivery of negative test results via SMS. We commenced a trial of the new automated SMS system at Westmead’s COVID-19 Clinic today, with the potential to extend this across the District. Given that the vast majority of test results are negative, this will significantly reduce the time our teams spend providing test results. All positive test results will continue to be reported immediately to the referring doctor and Public Health Unit.
At Blacktown Hospital, we have redeployed some teams to improve the timeliness of COVID-19 testing. Some of our community health staff are currently couriering samples instead of transporting patients – thank you for your assistance and flexibility. We are also training some of our staff so they can assist with contact tracing for confirmed cases.
Supply of the required PPE for our staff remains a top priority. Today our Mental Health Services team received additional supplies and drive ourselves daily to ensure all of our staff have the PPE they need. We will now be receiving weekly state-wide updates from NSW Health on PPE stock, ordering and deliveries. In addition, the Clinical Excellence Commission’s (CEC’s) state guidelines for the application of PPE are currently being aligned with national PPE guidelines. I will keep you updated. In the meantime, it is critical that all staff comply with the CEC’s guidelines – attached.
For everyone who is continuing to work at our facilities, I would like to reassure you that we are following the NSW Health and Clinical Excellence Commission advice on infection control to protect our staff, patients and visitors, particularly those who may be more vulnerable. We are prepared and have contingency plans in place to help keep staff and patients safe in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis in our workforce.
Over the last few days, there have been instances of missing consumables at our facilities. This is particularly disappointing. The security of our supplies is paramount so please report any theft of consumables – all instances will be investigated.
On a more positive note, the Prime Minister’s announcement today that childcare will be free for essential workers in critical areas such as healthcare is welcome news.
This will support all of our frontline staff, who are continuing to come to work every day to serve our community. Whether is it cleaning our hospitals or providing direct patient care, your role is critical and highly valued.
WSLHD Chief Executive