Vic COVID-19 update: NDS Strategies to manage services and keep people safe now during COVID 2022
NDS has put together the following list of good ideas/strategies for helping disability providers manage services safely and effectively at this challenging time. Some of the ideas have come from hearing what providers are doing and thinking and we always appreciate those that have shared their thoughts. It’s in the spirit of collaboration and partnership that hopefully we will be stronger together. You might like to consider some of the ideas if they are new to you.
- If a participant has returned a positive Rapid Antigen Test, this is now considered a COVID-positive result and providers should implement their outbreak management plan. If a person is displaying symptoms, assume they are positive and prioritise testing.
- Consider all accessible accommodation options (where people could be isolated), where support could be given for COVID-positive clients, in a reduced staffing model and oversight of a roaming nurse for symptom management.
- Asymptomatic staff who have recovered from COVID-19 and are returning to work, further guidance will be provided based on State/Territory.
Use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
- Added protections should be used where staff are in direct, close contact with participants when social distance cannot be maintained.
- Consider adapting PPE requirements based on risk assessments of certain support settings, including but not limited to the use of surgical face masks, N-95 face masks, face shields, and ensuring sufficient ventilation.
- Ensure staff training options are established for when work settings change, including for when staff work with COVID-positive clients. Begin training staff teams for this likelihood.
Rapid Antigen Testing (RATs)
- Providers could purchase Rapid Antigen Tests from their own budgets for immediate use, for the short term, acknowledging that supply may be an issue.
- Watch the Department of Health video Instructional resources for use of Rapid Antigen Tests. RATS are only effective if used correctly.
- RATs are recommended for workforce surveillance purposes in disability residential settings, to link up to the NDIA supply of RAT tests for SIL participants and other participants if/when endorsed.
- Consider postponing or adapting service delivery models re-opening day services next week or in the immediate future – indoors activities present risk of outbreak. For essential supports, prioritise outdoor supports or online supports with the same staffing teams.
- Consider how the new variant will impact a group support setting, and how outbreak management will be implemented. Communicate these risks and management strategies to participants and staff.
- Go to minimum safe staffing levels in every home to stretch the workforce.
- Consult with staffing teams about changes in working environments, particularly where there might be COVID-positive clients. Keep staff engaged and explore options from staff about working with COVID-positive participants.
- Consider redeployment strategy for staff who are not being used in services that are postponed. How can they be used as a surge workforce in other services?
- COVID Safe and Outbreak Management Plans must be updated, and changes communicated to staff and participants as they occur. Clearly communicate how these plans have been adapted to respond to the new variant, acknowledging that the spread of COVID will be more significant, while providing straightforward evidence around how, for most individuals, symptoms will remain mild.
- NDS to distribute information re: Positive Pathways (supports available for when a person is positive) and when to seek medical advice when symptoms move from mild to moderate/severe. This could be shared with participants and families.
- Local Primary Health Units (LPHU) advice will be the most helpful as part of managing this situation. Victorian resource - Keep on staying COVIDSafe.
Communications to Clients
- Help clients feel they are not alone. Minimise fear by building confidence in your good management that show you are taking safe steps.
- Keep communications regular, clear, and consistent.
- While testing options are not accessible, exercise caution.
- Balance communications with participants. Openly discuss and acknowledge risks associated with certain support models, while also acknowledging risks of postponing supports.
- Ensure contingency planning for different scenarios. Highlight any known variations between services and give reasonable explanations of differences. For example, worker availability will impact service offerings.
- Remain clear about what will happen in the event of workforce shortages.
- Access easy read resources around the Omicron variant to reinforce the message that people are likely to catch this, and the current evidence suggests it has a lesser level of severity.
Notifications of Positive Cases
- Always complete the required COVID notifications for Disability with the information you have and call the notification hotline to ensure they have on record the participant’s status recorded even without the PCR confirmation.
- Make sure all staff have access to their State/Territory relevant department links for COVID-positive notifications. Links are in The First 24 hours: steps to take in response to a COVID-positive diagnosis.