Executive Messages

April 2020

Updated information – Vulnerable Health Care Workers and Pregnant Women



Dear colleagues,


The information and risk assessment for Vulnerable Healthcare Workers (HCW) at WSLHD has been updated in relation to risk factors for consideration and the approvals process.


Vulnerable Healthcare Workers


The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s (AHPPC’s) advice on vulnerable people remains the most current source of information on vulnerabilities and can be found here.


WSLHD continues to encourage staff to consider whether or not they are a vulnerable Health Care Worker (HCW) and to discuss this with their manager, using the information on the AHPPC website.


Please refer to the attached updated risk assessment. Forms approved by managers should follow the local approval process and be signed off by the Tier 3/General Manager prior to sending to Human Resources for recording.


Approval is based on the circumstances of the vulnerable person meeting the AHPPC advice, or if not included there, on the basis of specialist medical advice from the staff member’s specialist or GP.


Managers are encouraged to give broad consideration to how vulnerable HCWs can be supported to work from home either doing their normal duties or other meaningful work.


Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women


The AHPPC advice does not currently include pregnant women in the definition of a vulnerable person.


However, in certain circumstances, pregnant women may have special vulnerability. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has information for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their families.


Women who are concerned that their pregnancy has increased their vulnerability if they acquire COVID-19 should discuss this with their pregnancy health provider and then discuss this with their manager using the principles above.


All Awards contain entitlements related to pregnancy as does the Fair Work Act; however determining entitlements can be complex, depending on individual circumstances. Staff and managers should contact HR for further information and advice as to whether the pregnant staff member has entitlements they can access through these avenues.




Luci Caswell
Director, People & Culture

COVID-19 Staff Update, 15 April



Dear colleagues,

Western Sydney LHD is supporting NSW Health to triple ICU capacity across the state to prepare for the potential peak in ICU demand. Already we have doubled the number of our ICU beds in our system and there is more work to do.


Last week our mental health teams were contacted up to four times a day by travellers in hotel isolation requiring support. We are also providing interpreter assistance. Last night alone the interpreter service received 20 requests for support.  


NSW Health has established a Critical Intelligence Unit (CIU) to provide critical and expert advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CIU integrates available evidence, data analysis, clinical insight and system perspectives with the aim of informing and supporting the key decision makers by reviewing emerging evidence and guidance published by key journals and health organisations.


Clinical guidance documents for different specialties, including updated advice for surgery, pathology and palliative care, are now available on the NSW Health webpage.


We have increased our focus on screening and have commenced targeting at-risk communities. This includes revising our criteria and reducing our threshold for screening as well as creating mobile screening teams in integrated community health to reach the more vulnerable groups in our community. I encourage all staff and their family members who are experiencing any flu-like symptoms to attend one of our clinics for testing.


I am pleased to advise that NSW Health has secured a significant supply of PPE stock including face shields, gowns and surgical masks that will in provide NSW Health facilities with surety of supply over the medium term. This has been a great outcome from this hardworking team.


To support critical research on the COVID-19 pandemic we are establishing a fast track process for researchers to support and assist their efforts, while protecting the integrity of their research and ensure we have good governance processes that support their ethics approvals and practical efforts.


Again, I encourage staff who experience any form of abuse from a member of the public to report it to Police, regardless of where it occurs. The NSW Government has made it clear that it is a criminal offence, so please notify your manager and we will follow it up.


Lastly, I know some of you may be interested in the option of short term accommodation near work or your home. We are currently have some spaces available at Westmead for those in need and we are working on partnering with local providers as well. We will be providing more details soon.


In the meantime, please continue to check our COVID-19 Staff Information page for the latest updates and our Staff Wellbeing page for support and advice.



Graeme Loy


WSLHD Chief Executive

COVID-19 Staff Update, 14 April



Dear colleagues, 

On Easter Sunday, twelve areas were identified for increased COVID-19 testing and monitoring, due to the potential for cases of community transmission. These include Blacktown, Cumberland and Westmead; the full list is available on the NSW Health webpage. As a result we have included testing for people experiencing flu-like symptoms in our COVID-19 clinics.


Whilst new cases are continuing to drop across the state, we are continuing to drive high levels of testing, including testing more people who come through our Emergency Departments. We are also proactively testing vulnerable people in the community. As always, I encourage you to stay away from work if you are unwell and visit one of our COVID-19 clinics or contact your GP if you have flu-like symptoms.


I know how critical adequate PPE supplies are for testing and patient care. We continue to review stock levels on a daily basis and liaise with HealthShare and suppliers to ensure that PPE is available when needed. Last Thursday we received a major delivery of PPE supplies including face shields, surgical masks, gowns and respirators, and today we received another delivery of impervious gowns. 


The Clinical Excellence Commission has now released two short videos demonstrating the appropriate application of PPE in relation to contact, droplet and airborne precautions. These are available on the CEC webpage and on our COVID-19 staff information page. The correct use of PPE is critical and I encourage you to watch the videos if you are involved in patient care. 


Research to find treatments for COVID-19 is a top priority, locally and internationally. It is important that we maintain strong governance while contributing to this research. We have established systems that enable us to fast-track approvals while still ensuring that governance and ethics standards are maintained.


Following the NSW Government’s recent announcement about free parking at NSW Hospitals for all healthcare workers, HealthShare NSW will be temporarily suspending all salary deductions for parking. We are also in contact with local Councils to request their discretion in enforcing parking regulations in streets close to our hospitals.


Lastly, thanks to the generosity of many businesses wanting to show their support for healthcare workers, we are receiving more donations than usual. Please find attached some gift guidelines to guide your decision-making if you receive a gift or an enquiry about donations. These gestures are appreciated. We just need to consider the safety of our staff as well as those who are kindly donating gifts.


Thanks for your ongoing efforts. Regardless of your role in the District, you are contributing to and supporting our care for the community during this difficult time. 




Graeme Loy


WSLHD Chief Executive

Vacation care options for primary school children



Dear colleagues, 


We want to support our staff so they are able to continue to care for our community.


Following the Prime Minister’s recent announcement about free childcare for healthcare workers, we have investigated some options in the local areas.


Catholic Out of School Hours Care (COSHC) is offering vacation care at the following centres:


  • Blacktown South: COSHC St Michaels Primary, 0419 554 302 

  • Castle Hill: COSHC St Bernadette’s, 0408 582 535 

  • Glenmore Park: COSHC Bethany, 0409 133 213 

  • Glenwood: COSHC Holy Cross, 0418 115 483 

  • North Parramatta: COSHC St Monica’s, 0429 990 179

  • Plumpton: COSHC Good Shepherd, 0409 121 980 

  • Quakers Hill: COSHC Mary Immaculate, 0417 203 333

  • Stanhope Gardens: COSHC John XXIII, 0438 228 271 

  • Wentworthville: COSHC Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 0409 361 929 

  • Westmead: COSHC Mother Teresa, 0418 153 894

  • Winston Hills: COSHC St Paul the Apostle, 0429 017 382


Care is available at these centres for children of primary school age (5-12 years) over the next two weeks.


All of the centres have strengthened their hygiene and infection control management to minimise the exposure of children, families and educators/carers. While educators and carers adopt Christian values, formal religious education is not provided as part of the care.


To find out more, call one of the centres or email EYEC@parra.catholic.edu.au.


Information about all of the childcare services currently operating in each area is also available on the Service NSW search page.


We appreciate all that you are doing to continue to provide essential services at this time.




Luci Caswell
Director, People & Culture

Updated information about working from home



Dear colleagues, 


I wanted to share with you some updated information about working from home for employees of WSLHD.


Working from home


In line with Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020, signed by Minister Hazzard on 30 March 2020, WSLHD is continuing to assess suitable staff for ability to work from home, either completely or for part of the week. This is particularly important for vulnerable healthcare workers, if redeployment to another lower risk job is not available.


Working from home is encouraged, where possible. It is important to give broad consideration, including whether there are some non-critical parts of the staff member’s role that can be put on hold so this does not become a barrier to working from home.


For clinicians, the use of telehealth and other resources available to support remote working should be considered, noting whether or not the use of this technology reduces the efficacy or safety of the care or has little to no impact on care.


Attached is the COVID-19 Working from Home Application, which has been simplified while still addressing important work and Work Health Safety considerations. 


Completed forms must be returned to WSLHD-PeopleandCulture@health.nsw.gov.au.


The People and Culture team is available to assist managers and staff to resolve barriers to working from home. The workstation assessment does not need to be completed prior to an application being approved – it can be completed and returned later.


The following online resources may help. Please note that the intranet links can only be accessed while on campus or via VPN.


General information about working from home is available here.


Can I use my own computer?


Please refer to the guide to help people understand whether they need a remote access account and whether they can work on BYOD. The purpose of this is to try to limit the number of requests for remote access and laptops, and to encourage staff not to request these if they can work without them. 


Access to WSLHD computers


There is also a form that staff must complete if they are taking their PCs home. This will be logged in SARA and allocated to Desktop Support for installation of the Cisco AnyConnect client. Once you have done this, add a task and reassign it to the Assets team them so they can keep a record of asset locations. 


How to connect to your home WiFi


As there have been a lot of enquiries and requests for help, there is also a guide on how to connect to your home WiFi If you are taking a corporate laptop home for the first time.


How to use Office 365


A lot of staff are also using some O365 applications for the first time. eHealth has gathered together a lot of resources and help guides to provide assistance.




Luci Caswell
Director, People & Culture

COVID-19 Staff Update, 9 April



Dear colleagues,


These are unusual times and some of our referral, triaging and treatment decisions in the coming months may differ from what they would usually be. The Secretary NSW Health has reassured staff that we will receive appropriate indemnity and legal support in their clinical decisions related to COVID-19 – please find attached a copy of the Secretary’s letter of support.


With the addition of more ICU capacity in our NSW hospitals, and the private hospitals working closely with our public system, ventilator capacity has doubled across the state. This has been a big achievement as we prepare for the potential increase in cases expected from this pandemic. We will continue to work to build this capacity further.


I would like to share a message of thanks received from some of our radiation oncology staff in self-isolation following the positive diagnosis of two of our radiation therapists last week. In particular they wanted to thank the Integrated Care & Community Health team and all of their colleagues for their support and well wishes.


I am pleased to confirm that both of our staff are doing well and no other staff or patients identified as contacts have been diagnosed with COVID-19 from this incident. Our Public Health Unit is continuing to monitor those identified through contact tracing.


The State Government’s announcement today of a $5000 fine for those who abuse healthcare workers is welcome news. Abusing health staff is never acceptable and again I encourage you to report any incidents to your manager and the police for investigation.


Today I directed all of our sites to cease issuing parking fines on any of our campuses until further notice. I appreciate the efforts of our staff to help us ensure we maintain safe access. If you do receive a fine from today onwards on our campuses please contact my office and we will ensure it is rescinded.


Health screening continues, thanks to the efforts of many staff across our facilities. We have now introduced temperature checks during the health screenings as an additional safety measure. Although some entry points may be closed, health screening will continue over the Easter long weekend. Thanks again for your patience and cooperation this week.


In partnership with our PHN we added another COVID-19 clinic at Mount Druitt yesterday which will be in full swing from next Tuesday. All of our existing clinics will remain open during the long weekend for general public and staff testing. You can find the details on our 

COVID-19 Staff Wellbeing page.


We continue to follow up COVID-19 positive patients in the community across the district with many receiving daily follow up calls to check in with them. This groups numbers have remained relatively stable over the last few days and our skilled community nurses and staff are changing the way they work to support our patients outside of our hospital walls.


Our PPE supply chains will also remain in operation with another major delivery arriving this afternoon. HealthShare NSW will continue to provide support seven days a week, covering both warehouse operations and a triaging service. There is an escalation plan in place to respond to any urgent requirements.


Finally, I would like to wish everyone a happy Easter. Special thanks to those who were working over the weekend to continue to provide exemplary care to our patients.




Graeme Loy


WSLHD Chief Executive


Vulnerable workers risk assessment



Dear colleagues,


I wanted to share with you some updated information about assistance for vulnerable healthcare workers (HCW) at WSLHD.


Vulnerable healthcare workers


The Government has advised that although the current COVID responses in place are promising, the Australian community must continue to cooperate with the measures and not become complacent. 


This means that we must continue to ensure that all vulnerable HCWs who wish to be excluded from the workplace are accommodated, either through alternative work arrangements or approval of leave.


The most current Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice on vulnerable people can be found here.


WSLHD continues to encourage staff to consider whether or not they are a vulnerable HCW and to discuss this with their manager. WSLHD has identified a number of positions and roles that can be performed on site and at home which are being prioritised for filling by vulnerable HCWs.


Managers are encouraged to give broad consideration to how vulnerable HCWs can be supported to work from home either doing their normal duties or other meaningful work.


On 8 April, the Ministry increased access to special leave to include vulnerable HCWs in certain circumstances.  Where a risk assessment has been completed recommending redeployment to a lower risk job or work from home and those options are not available the vulnerable HCWs can access all or part of their 20 days of special leave. They may also access their own accrued annual or long service leave if they wish to. 


Pregnant and breastfeeding women


The AHPPC advice does not currently include pregnant women in the definition of a vulnerable person. 


The Ministry has a Community of Practice group for Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) has information for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their families.


A message from Dr Vijay Roach, President of RANZGOG, to pregnant women and their families can be found here.


Women who are concerned that their pregnancy has increased their vulnerability if they acquire COVID-19 should discuss this with their pregnancy health provider.


Where a staff member’s GP or Obstetrician advises that they are more vulnerable due to pregnancy-related or chronic medical conditions, WSLHD will assist the staff member to manage their risk through redeployment or access to their annual, long service or maternity leave.


Risk assessments and management strategies


The initial WSLHD advice to vulnerable HCWs can be found here along with the Vulnerable HCW risk assessment form. The WSLHD COVID-19 Work from Home application forms can be found on the Flexible working page.


Approved Vulnerable HCW risk assessments and Working from home applications must be emailed to WSLHD-PeopleandCulture@health.nsw.gov.au.


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.




Luci Caswell
Director, People & Culture

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