Coronavirus (CoV)

07-Feb-2020

ASMOF and the other health unions yesterday held a teleconference with NSW Health to discuss the Coronavirus and we are providing the following update to members.

Protection from infection at work

Clinical and support staff who work in clinical settings have existing knowledge about standard, contact and airborne transmission precautions as part of training for their role.

Where additional precautions are in place for a particular bed/ room, such precautions are signposted at the entry and associated Personal Protective Equipment provided.

Local District and Network based internal Infection Prevention & Control teams should be approached for practical advice in the first instance; as such advice will consider the general requirements and the situational specific requirements (unique to patient cohort, treatment location etc). As the Coronavirus situation continues to develop this is subject to ongoing change.

Infection control information is available in existing resources:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Documents/2020/novel-coronavirus-clinicians-update-20200128.pdf (accessible through the NSW Health main NCoV webpage: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx).

The Clinical Excellence Commission also has some useful infection control information: http://www.cec.health.nsw.gov.au/patient-safety-programs/infection-prevention-and-control/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov

Staffing/leave arrangements

Precautionary measures are being put in place in response to the evolving situation.

Note that the risk of infection observed to date in returning travelers with symptoms of respiratory illness is low.

Staff (including contractors, volunteers and students) working in NSW Health facilities who have:

  1. been in Hubei Province, China in the past 14 days, or
  2. been in, or transited through, other parts of mainland China, from 1 February 2020 onwards, or
  3. are a close contact of a person confirmed to have novel coronavirus infection:

* must be isolated in their home for 14 days after leaving/contact, other than for seeking individual medical care

* should contact their supervisor and provide evidence of where they have traveled within China

* Health Agencies should consider whether it is possible for those employees to work from home.

* if employees cannot work from home Health Agencies should consider assigning other meaningful work which could be performed at home. For example, telehealth, project work, completion of mandatory training etc.

* if staff cannot perform any work from home they should be directed not to attend work and be placed on special leave for any rostered time during the 14 days or balance thereof.

* if they feel ill or become unwell with fever or respiratory illness (even if mild) seek medical attention as soon as possible. They should either call the Healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 for advice or call their GP or Emergency Department for advice before attending.

  1. been in, or transited through, mainland China (other than Hubei Province) before 1 February 2020, or
  2. are a casual contact of a person confirmed to have novel coronavirus infection:

* can continue to attend work so long as they are excluded from patient care areas until 14 days have lapsed from date of departure from China or last contact. This means clinical staff must be redeployed to non-patient care duties, or not attend work.

* should contact their supervisor and provide evidence of where they have traveled within China

* if they feel ill or become unwell with fever or respiratory illness (even if mild) seek medical attention as soon as possible. They should either call the Healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 for advice or call their GP or Emergency Department for advice before attending.

* staff who work in non-patient care areas, and are well, can continue to attend work but must be excluded from patient care areas

 

To facilitate the exclusion from patient care areas, Health Agencies are to consider the following options for the employee:

  • perform those of their functions that do not require patient contact, or
  • perform appropriate alternative non patient care or non-clinical functions (e.g. work in other locations or be redeployed to another role), or
  • undertake mandatory training and or Health Agency directed professional development outside a patient care area, or
  • where all options have been exhausted and where the above is not possible, staff should be directed to be on Special Leave for any rostered time during the 14 days or balance thereof.

Staff who are unable to work because they are sick regardless of the cause:

  • sick leave is the appropriate form of leave

Leave Arrangements for staff leave to care for children directed to stay home from school/ day-care

Following the announcement by the NSW Government, employees of NSW Health who have children that are not able to attend school (due to recent travel to China) can access Family and Community Services (FACS) to care for children at home.

Special leave is not being granted for this purpose. NSW Health will follow the lead from Central Government should special leave provisions be otherwise granted.

Staff who remain in China and are unable to return

Available FACS leave can be used for staff unable to return home from China. Districts should be flexible with other leave requests (e.g. ADO, Annual and Long Service Leave and Leave without pay if FACS leave has been exhausted). Special leave is not granted for this purpose.

LHDs will monitor the implementation of these measures.

Note – mainland China excludes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.