Firstly, I want to say that our thoughts are with our Victorian friends and colleagues, as they adjust to the new measures introduced to bring the recent wave of COVID-19 under control.
It's clear that those most at risk, in our own state and across the country, are people who have previously experienced disadvantage and hardship, and that the pandemic is laying bare systemic flaws and inequalities - such as contracting out without the necessary due diligence, the privatisation of essential care, and not investing sufficiently in an adequate safety net.
But it has also amplified the value of local organisations embedded in their communities and the strength of our sector in adjusting services to keep people safe, supported, and connected.
The daily lives of most of us in WA have been largely unaffected by the re-development of the pandemic over east. We must however, remain vigilant. Now is the time to have a plan in place. If we prepare, we can better support community sector staff, and the individuals, families, and communities who need our support, should a COVID-19 outbreak occur.
We must continue to follow Government advice and recommended practices. I have included a list of links to resources and online training below. Thank you to our members who have freely shared their contingency and safety plans, which others are welcome to use as a template to develop your own.
While we are all relatively safe here in WA with no community transmissions, we can all take a moment to ensure that we are prepared and ready.
Chief Executive Officer
Government Advice on Safety Plans
The WA Government has provided templates and guidelines for developing Safety Plans, which it is recommended that community services put in place at each of their locations, as well as following specific advice for community service organisations, and specific health advice for aged care and community care providers.
Community Sector Planning
WACOSS members have generously shared examples of their contingency and safety plans, which are available from the COVID-19 Community Services Resources page on the website.
Key elements of a comprehensive plan might include:
- Protocols for staff if they have travelled, may have been exposed or show symptoms (including shortness of breath or cough, with or without a fever);
- HR guidance including advice on staff leave arrangements if they are directed to quarantine;
- How to respond if a client shows symptoms (noting it could just be a cold);
- How to deliver ongoing support to a client diagnosed with COVID-19 (when relevant and with support);
- Contract management to ensure if you are unable or directed not to deliver some services you won’t be penalised;
- How to scale up if necessary to provide additional services to the community if requested.
The Institute of Community Directors and OurCommunity.com.au have developed a resource that is a guide for NFP boards and managers, on how to create a COVID-19 Safe Workplace. It covers topics from preparing the workplace and consulting with staff, to modifying the workplace and events, dealing with the public, transport, and incident procedures. There are plenty of helpful checklists and templates that may be useful in your planning.
In addition, the Australian Council of Social Service has shared an Employer Resource Kit to help with working arrangements during COVID-19.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The Department of Finance has been managing requests for PPE from WA community service providers. Any community organisations who need to order PPE can do so via the process, which was detailed in an original Special FACS Bulletin on 13 May 2020.
The Western Australian Government Department of Health developed advice for the use of personal protective equipment for workers in community settings, and this discusses the measures that can help prevent spread of infection, such as the use of masks and a guide on how to use masks so that they are most effective; hand hygiene practices; and precautions in clinical care settings.
The Australian Government has also prepared advice on PPE, and how and when to use, along with the World Health Organisation has prepared advice on when and how to use masks.
Training and Education
The Australian Government COVID-19 Infection Control Training is for health care workers in all settings, and covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19.
Other training that may be of interest is the COVID-19 Infection Control and Prevention training from the World Health Organisation, and general hygiene and cleaning for the health workforce practices from the Australian Government.
**Please remember that these resources and templates are a guide, and you may need to tailor your safety and contingency plans to the relevant state requirements as they emerge, and based on your service or organisation's specific needs.**