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Mercury Talking Point: Covid risks while giving care at home

Dec 23, 2021

The reopening of state borders poses challenges for those caring for our most vulnerable, writes Allyson Warrington. As Tasmania’s borders reopen, Community Based Support recognises both the excitement and uncertainty swirling around the state’s various communities and demographics.

In the hospitality and tourism industries, it is full steam ahead – and who can blame them? The prospect of bars and restaurants booked and pumping – Covid-19 protocols in place – must be very exciting after nearly two full years of restrictions and borders being shut to many interstate visitors. In Hobart, people across the South, as well as the rest of the state are gearing up for the new Taste of Summer, the Sydney-Hobart yacht race finish and Mona Foma in the new year.

But for those of us in the community sector, we are preparing ourselves for the uncertainty of border openings and the impact on our clients and also our staff. At Community Based Support, our 350 staff care for some 2,500 aged care and disability clients.

Obviously, those demographics are some of Tasmania’s most vulnerable. And we are just one organisation of many across the state looking after  Tasmanians who are elderly or living with a disability.

At the moment, Community Based Support has its Covid-19 protocols in place, as we have done since the first lockdown in March 2020. We have followed and supported the directions of Premier Peter Gutwein and Public Health ever since. We know what we are doing, if a staff member has any Covid-19 symptoms, they get tested and isolate until they get a negative test. All of our staff are double vaccinated as essential workers.

Our staff are listed as “support workers”, because that’s what they do. They provide care and services for our clients; from accompanying them on shopping trips, meal deliveries, garden and home handiwork, as well as crucial community and social connection.

With the borders now open, what do we do if and when a number of our staff get Covid-19? Being vaccinated, they will hopefully not end up in hospital, but will isolate at home and endure the symptoms until they emerge days later, as per the advice. But if many of our staff become infected, will we have a workforce left to care for our 2,500 clients? This will put pressure on an already stretched workforce.

We are expected to continue to provide care when our clients get sick. Our staff will wear full PPE just as frontline health workers in hospitals. The advice we’ve acquired has been a long time coming, now we are putting all our efforts into preparation.

Community Based Support’s main mantra is supporting our clients to live the life they choose. And our clients choose to live in their own homes, which is a benefit to them and to the rest of the Tasmanian community.

Much focus is placed on residential care facilities. Where we differ are the interactions in various settings and with numerous clients in one day. Spare a thought for our workforce who continue to provide care in an environment where we must carefully manage risks every day. Because going into the home of a person known to have contracted Covid-19 is a very different proposition.

Thanks to our committed and dedicated team.

Allyson Warrington is the CEO of Community Based Support

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