CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 UPDATES

This is a record of our current notices about changes to our services due to COVID-19, which we have sent out to Alkira participants and their families and carers on the dates listed. Please note, notices sometimes are updates for specific services such as for those who access our Home Supports, if you do not access these services you may not have received the notice but it will be listed in this record.

If you have any queries about our service changes, please don’t hesitate to call us on (03) 9890 1365.

13 January

COVID Update from our CEO

As you know, the Omicron Covid variant is spreading rapidly across Australia, with 100,000 or more new cases being reported every day. At Alkira, we follow all regulations and CovidSafe guidelines in order to keep participants, families, carers, staff and the community as safe as possible.

Even so, we are starting to see Covid cases emerge amongst staff and family members, and yesterday we had a confirmed Covid case in a resident of one of the Alkira residential houses. That resident had also been in one of our small-group Community Supports summer recreation programs. The resident appears to have contracted Covid from someone in the general community. They are experiencing mild symptoms and we are providing them additional support. We wish them well for a speedy and full recovery. The other residents of that residential house are being tested today and we will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional support as needed.  For the time being, residents will isolate in their home and house visitors will be restricted.

Please be assured we are responding quickly and safely to this situation and have planned for a variety of scenarios over the past two years.  We are therefore now able to swiftly respond appropriately to this long-foreseen spread of Covid in the general community. We are currently informing everyone directly connected with each positive case as they emerge, we are implementing additional safety measures, liaising with health care professionals, utilising additional PPE, sourcing our own supply of RAT tests as soon as possible, and ensuring additional support is available for participants, families, carers and staff as needed.

We are part of a national network of disability service providers, and we’re in daily communication with other organisations and practitioners statewide and nationwide. We know that most disability organisations are facing similar issues, and – like Alkira – they are implementing plans to address this Omicron wave during January and February. We feel somewhat comforted that the Omicron variant appears to be much less dangerous than earlier variants, however there is no cause for complacency and we are being very vigilant.

We very much recognise that this can be an anxious time, and we can assure you that we will do our best to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved.

Richard Dent
CEO

12 January

Our Community Supports Services for the start of 2022

The current COVID Omicron wave is deeply affecting individuals and organisations across Australia. It appears at least one person in 25 across our state currently has COVID, and this is forecast to steeply increase over coming weeks. This will result in hundreds of thousands of others who are close contacts to isolate and get tested. This has already impacted supermarkets, transport companies, hospitals and other organisations having difficulty filling staff rosters and providing services. Currently, there is extreme pressure on our health care system, and Governments are again recommending that people work from home wherever possible.

In this context, Alkira wants to help keep people safe, while also continuing to provide services to support you and your family. Therefore, in a proactive effort to minimise disruptions to services due to staff shortages and onsite exposures, Alkira has decided to adapt our service provision in line with the most recent National Disability Services recommendations. From Tuesday 18th January until Friday 4th February 2022, Alkira Community Supports will be offering online services, essential one-to-one support, in-Home Supports to Alkira residents, and some limited day program activities.

Alkira Community Supports participants will be sent a calendar of online sessions available via email on Friday 14th January. Please request essential 1:1 in-home support by calling us on 9890 1365.

10 November

Return to Service at Box Hill TAFE (Whitehorse and Nelson Rd Campuses)

We are thrilled to finally announce that we have been given permission by the Department of Education to return to campus. Networks students will return on Monday 15th November and Momentum students will return on Wednesday 17th November.

In line with the Victorian Government roadmap, students and staff on campus will need to provide evidence of partial vaccination before Monday 15th November, and full vaccination by the 26th of November.

If you would like to return to campus, and you haven’t already provided your vaccination certificate/ approved exemption, can you please forward it to info@alkira.org.au ASAP.

You can produce your certificate by accessing your:

  • Immunisation history statement available from Medicare 
  • MyGov COVID-19 digital certificate
  • Service Victoria App- connected to your MyGov account. 

Staff and Students who cannot provide the required vaccination evidence will not be allowed on Box Hill Institute campuses. In addition, security guards and COVID marshals will be on campus and will be spot-checking vaccination status.

If a student is classified as an ‘exempted’ person, please communicate this to us in advance of the student attending campus so that BHI can have the right documentation and safety measures in place to protect both Alkira and BHI staff and students. To qualify as an ‘exempted’ person, the person needs to show the appropriate evidence, that is, certification from a medical practitioner that the person is unable to receive a dose or further dose of a COVID-19 vaccine due to a medical reason.

Students who are unable to comply with the above requirements should contact us ASAP so that we can discuss other options.

We understand that it’s been a while since we’ve been on campus, please rest assured that we will support you however we can.

We will not be able to provide the typical suite of Momentum and Networks services, as we are attempting to return to our COVID normal and we don’t have full access to all of our resources due to safety measures.

  • Masks will remain mandatory inside and outside and please rest assured that we will maintain social distancing rules and thorough hygiene and cleanliness.
  • QR Codes will continue to be mandatory when checking into the building.
  • Community access will be occurring, however only on public transport and not in Alkira vehicles for the time being. Again, social distancing will be adhered to.

Thank you in advance for helping us to keep everybody safe and allowing us to begin our return to COVID normal.

Warm Regards,
Steven Parkinson
Manager Momentum, Pathways and Networks Programs

5 November

Easing of Restrictions for Home Supports

Further to communications on the 29th October 2021 and the lifting of restrictions in our Home Support Services I am pleased to say that the Care Facilities directions now allow visitors to enter our Home Support houses.
Alkira is mindful that with the high number of active COVID 19 cases and community transmission that we need to continue proceeding with an abundance of caution. Please contact the House Coordinator to schedule your visit to the house so visitor numbers and density quotients can be managed; and there are reasonable gaps between the next residents’ visitors for cleaning to occur.
As a Care Facility we must not permit more than five visitors of a resident to enter or remain on the premises at any one time per day in relation to that resident.
On arrival, visitors are to follow the below rules to enter: 

  • Visitors must wear a surgical face mask inside the house and take extra caution with washing your hands and keeping at least 1.5m physical distance at all times. If visiting in a designated area outside, it is preferred you maintain wearing your mask while on the property. Masks can be removed to eat and drink when fresh air is available i.e. outside or with windows / doors open.
  • While care facilities have very high vaccination rates among residents and staff, it is strongly recommended that all visitors are fully vaccinated. Staff are required to check the status of all visitors eligible to be vaccinated. Visitors who present as unvaccinated will not be permitted to enter inside the house however will be directed to a designated outdoor visitor area.
  • Visitors must use the Service Victoria QR code and the Link Safe QR Code as the declaration upon entry to state that visitors have not been in close contact or a household contact with a confirmed case in the past 7 days if fully vaccinated or the last 14 days if unvaccinated.Staff can support you to use the QR codes by using the house iPad to enter your details if required. You will then still need to show your vaccination status either electronically or in hard copy.

Visitors cannot enter a Home Support house if they:

  • have COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature of 37.5 degrees or higher or any symptoms of a fever.
  • are awaiting a COVID-19 test result (unless you have been advised not to isolate e.g. for surveillance testing).
  • are self-isolating because you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 (including if you live with them) or you have been to a Tier 1 exposure site.
  • have arrived in Australia within the last 14 days.

Once visitors are authorised to enter, staff will guide you to proceed to a designated visitor area inside or outside the house for you to spend time with the person you are visiting. It is highly recommended that you reframe from moving around inside the house so to maintain a safe home for others living in the house.
Furthermore, prospective residents may now visit our Home Support houses to view our vacancies as this applies. Prospective residents and their supports are to abide by the visitor rules of entry.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that there will likely be an increase in participants and support staff being notified of attending an exposure site as they all go about resuming their lives. Therefore, at these times staff will often move to a higher level of PPE as a precaution while we assess the risk to the participant’s home. Participants will be highly encouraged to stay home while this assessment is being conducted. Families and Carers will receive a text message that we are undertaking a contact assessment of a close contact exposure notification. Families and Carers will be formally contacted by phone only when a COVID positive case has been confirmed and participants have been identified as a close contact. We understand that theses situations create anxiety however please be assured we have good protocols embedded in our staff practices and in our day to day operations in managing the participants home.

Thank you for your co-operation and understanding while we navigate living with COVID 19.

Kind Regards,
Meghan Coulter
Manager Home Supports

4 November

Resumption of Services for onsite Community Supports programs

We are pleased to announce that the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) has advised that disability day programs may operate as an essential service, including for residents of disability residential services. The updated advice for day services, applies to metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

To operate day programs, providers must maintain density limits, including workers, of one person per two square metres in both indoor and outdoor areas.  Service providers must maintain COVID Safe plans and should:

  • Strongly encourage all participants and visitors to be fully vaccinated
  • Ensure everyone wears a mask when indoors, unless they are exempted
  • Encourage participants to wear a mask outdoors if they cannot physically distance
  • All workers must always wear a face mask indoors, and outdoors if they cannot physically distance
  • Practice hand washing and sanitising.

 

Services may be provided to participants if they are unvaccinated, or partly vaccinated, in some cases. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals (noting that vaccination exemptions may apply), can receive essential services with flexible options for safe service delivery, where possible, including:

  • online or individual service delivery
  • minimising group interactions unless participants are from the same household
  • minimising contact between vaccinated and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals.

All workers, including volunteers must be vaccinated in line with Chief Health Officer Mandatory Vaccination Directions. All of Alkira’s active staff comply with this directive.

We will be returning to onsite group-based services as soon as possible for those participants who are ready to return. We will also continue to provide zoom services and essential 1:1 service. 

To assist with planning for onsite services, I ask you to complete this form if you would like to return to onsite services. The relevant Service Manager will be in touch with you once we receive your form to confirm your start date.

 

Thank you for your support and cooperation.

Kind Regards,
Laura Ubavin
Manager Community Supports 

29 October

Home Supports Easing of Restrictions

We are excited about the Victoria Roadmap to easing of restrictions on Metropolitan Melbourne with 80% of the Victorian population fully vaccinated for COVID 19. Therefore, we have been able to move to Phase C of the National Plan at 6.00pm tonight. This is great news for Alkira residents however we are still very mindful that with the high number of active COVID 19 cases and community transmission that we need to continue proceeding with an abundance of caution.
The following restrictions are in place:

  • Participants are permitted to leave their home under the Stay Safe directions and move between Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria.
  • The Care Facilities directions do not permit visitors to enter participant homes, we are working towards that this restriction will be gradually lifted from the 18th November as the current date of the directions.
  • Participants are permitted to attend public gatherings for up to 30 people. It is strongly recommended that all people gathering are vaccinated, maintain 1.5m physical distancing and sanitise hands regularly. Participants may need your support to maintain these COVID safety principles.
  • Participants are permitted to attend private gatherings at their family or friends’ home with up to 10 visitors. It is strongly recommended that all people visiting are vaccinated. Participants can stay overnight only when they are provided their own bedroom otherwise they will need to return home each day. Please refer to these tips on having visitors safely in the home. We highly recommend that while participants are visiting private homes family and friends follow these tips and participants wear a mask when not eating or drinking, encouraged to physically distance and maintain good hand hygiene.
  • If participants require staff support in the private home the staff member will be counted in the private gathering numbers each day and will need to continue wearing PPE as a support worker of a care facility. Any time a staff member needs to remove their mask, staff will ensure they are physically distancing especially when eating and drinking around others. If opportunity prevails, staff may take a meal break to consume food and drink at this time.
  • Participants can travel in a vehicle with family and friends. It is highly recommended that this is with only the driver and 1 other passenger. Participants will need to wear a surgical mask and sit furthest from the driver and other passengers. It is highly recommended that when in a vehicle there is good airflow. This can be achieved by using the maximum airflow on the air conditioner when on fresh air rather than recirculated air whilst in transit.
  • Alkira Home Supports participants will continue to be supported in their home by Alkira Community Support workers until further advice is received.
  • Participant 1:1 support provided by Alkira Home Support Staff has resumed in participants home and within the Stay Safe directions to attend venues and recreational pursuits. However, participant 1:1 support provided by Other Support Services are being engaged to support participants within the Stay Safe directions to leave home only; and cannot resume within the participant’s home. Other Support Service workers and participants will both need to wear masks when transiting in a vehicle. All workers are mandated to comply with the Victorian Public Health order for COVID 19 vaccination. Alkira staff will check the vaccination status of the other support service worker before the worker commences duty with the participant.

Furthermore, participants leaving home will be highly encouraged to carry their surgical face mask, vaccination certificate and a form of identification like their companion card for when they attend venues. When signing in to venues we require the participant to be registered with the house mobile number for contact tracing. We also request that a log of venues and times be provided to the staff when the participant is returning home.
Staff will encourage participants to wash their hands before they leave home, and when they return; and to use sanitiser when out (when soap and water are not easily available). Staff will temperature check participants on arrival home from public and private gatherings and when having been to venues. Staff will highly encourage participants to change their clothes on returning home as another precautionary measure when attending public and private gatherings and venues. Where practicable, participants may be directed to enter their home nearest the bathroom to change their clothes.

Staff working in Home Support houses are required to continue wearing surgical face masks indoors and outdoors, and to use face shields indoors and eye protection glasses outdoors. Staff are continuing to conduct high touch cleaning and disinfecting in the house and the vehicle.

There will likely be an increase in participants and staff being notified of attending an exposure site and therefore at these times staff will move to a higher level of PPE as a precaution while we fully assess the risk to the participant’s home. Participants will be highly encouraged to stay home while this assessment is being conducted. Families and Carers will receive a text message that we are assessing an exposure notification that we have received and are undertaking a risk assessment. Families and Carers will be formally contacted by phone only when a COVID positive case has been confirmed and participants have been identified as a close contact. We understand that these situations create anxiety however please be assured we have good protocols embedded in our staff practices and in our day to day operations in managing the participants home.
Thank you for your co-operation and understanding while we navigate these new arrangements.

Kind Regards,

Meghan Coulter
Manager Home Supports

19 October

Community Supports Easing of Restrictions

Alkira Community Supports is excited at the prospect of being able to resume group-based services very soon. We are awaiting clear directions from DHHS on how disability day services will be able to open up, we hope that this will be given to Alkira very soon.

Alkira has all of its active onsite staff vaccinated and we are ready to provide onsite group and community services when the Government directions allow us to.

To enable Alkira Community Supports management to commence planning for services, Alkira would like to request participants to provide evidence of their COVID vaccinations. If you could please provide a copy of your COVID-19 Digital Certificate this will be helpful in planning services and for staff to assist participants in accessing venues like swimming pools, cinemas, bowling alleys and cafes etc that will be required to be shown in order for entry into these premises. You can obtain a copy of your vaccination certificate from the My Gov website.

If you have an approved exemption from being vaccinated from an authorised provider then please provide a copy of this to Alkira.  Please email your certificates to info@alkira.org.au by this Friday 22nd October 2021.

If we do not receive a copy of participant’s vaccination certificate or approved exemptions, then we will assume that the participant is unvaccinated and we will have to plan service delivery around this, which would mean the participant may not be able to access community venues inline with Government Directions. We do not want anybody to miss out on their choice of programs and activities, so please provide a copy of your COVID-19 Vaccination certificates to avoid any disappointment.

We really appreciate your co-operation and understanding in this matter.      

 

Kind Regards,

Laura Ubavin
Manager Community Supports