Today’s COVID bulletin includes an important update on new N95 mask guidelines for Western Health staff, as well as further explanation on the recently revised guidelines for the furloughing of healthcare workers.
With another steep increase in COVID cases reported today, the demands on all health services, including Western Health, are very high. I want to thank you again for your ongoing efforts and commitment to our patients and community during this period. I’d also like to reassure you that Western Health’s COVID surge plans have been carefully developed, and continually refined, over the past two years in anticipation of very high levels of demand. I look forward to keeping you updated on any further changes via this Operations Bulletin as we continue to develop our strategies to respond to the needs of our community.
Acting Executive Director Operations
Wearing of N95 mask in non-patient facing areas by clinical staff
Effective immediately, we are now asking all clinical staff, and staff working in clinical/patient facing-areas to wear N95 masks in all areas of Western Health across all campuses. This is a temporary measure to help reduce the risk of spread from staff to staff given the community transmission is extremely high. We understand staff are wearing N95 masks while in clinical/patient-facing areas but then may replace the N95 mask with a surgical mask during their time in other non public-facing shared workspaces (e.g. during handover, EMR documentation), shared offices or tearooms. Instead of changing to a surgical mask, staff should now keep using the same N95 mask unless contaminated or the mask has been used for 4 hours or more.
This change not only keeps you safer, but it also reduces the risk of unnecessary furloughing of staff if they are wearing an N95 mask compared to a surgical mask. We also encourage staff to use the designated outdoor areas to have a much-needed break, enjoy a coffee and have their meals, which further reduces the risk of transmission. Also, please conduct your meetings and handovers via Zoom or other non-physical means if appropriate, while the risk is so high in the community. Can we also remind managers that if your staff can work from home, they should.
The only exception to this rule is if you’re in an office or room by yourself with the doors closed. Non-clinical staff walking in public areas and not passing through patient areas are also exempt from wearing N95 masks unless your work area has been specifically directed to wear N95 masks due to a recent exposure.
As summer kicks in and our fluid intake increases, Maureen Canning from Infection Prevention has compiled a list of handy tips to keep up the fluids while reducing the risk of transmission/contamination:
- Don’t drink in clinical areas – breakrooms onl
- Try your best not to sip during the day
- Drink 250-500mls of water coming into work
- For every cup of tea/coffee, drink 1-2 glasses of water
- Drink larger volumes less frequently to avoid sipping
- Wear your N95 mask to the toilet to avoid frequent changes.
If staff or areas need to order more N95 masks or other PPE, please visit this link. For information on N95/P2 fit testing and a refresher on N95 educational material and usage tips, visit this link or our PPE page on the microsite.
Changes to furloughing rules
The Department of Health updated its directions for the furloughing of staff last week. Under these guidelines, staff who had previously been required to isolate as a “social, workplace or education” contact are, in many instances, now able to safely return to work by following several precautions. (Please note that the directions for “household/household-like” contacts remain unchanged at the current time, with the requirement to quarantine for 7 days and complete a PCR at day 6 or if symptomatic).
While it is expected that furloughing guidelines for healthcare workers will be revised again in the coming days and weeks, please note there have not been any further changes since the government announcement on New Year’s Eve (which were detailed in the previous operations bulletin).
The following guidelines now apply to all (clinical and non-clinical) Western Health staff:
|COVID exposure status||New guidance||Additional precautions|
|Social, workplace or education contacts||Obtain a PCR test as soon as possible
May return to work if asymptomatic while waiting for PCR result
Complete 3 asymptomatic PCR tests weekly as part of surveillance program until 14 days post exposure
Complete 5 x daily RAT tests
|Staff returning to work on site under the new guidance MUST:
· Be asymptomatic
· Be fully vaccinated
· Wear an N95 mask at work for 14 days from exposure
· Not share break areas with mask off
· Get tested with the mildest of symptoms
Who should I contact?
If you satisfy the above guidelines, you are able to return to work without waiting for formal approval from Western Health COVID Staff Enquiries. However, we do ask that you inform your line manager and notify COVID Staff Enquiries about your status as a social, workplace or education contact, as well as your plans to return to work.
Are there other reasons I should contact COVID Staff Enquiries?
Yes. You are required to contact Western Health COVID Staff Enquiries – email@example.com – in the following circumstances:
- You live with someone who is COVID positive
- You live with someone who has had contact with someone who is COVID positive
- You have tested positive and have NOT worked on site within the 48 hours of testing positive (PCR test)
- You are returning from international travel.
Note: If you have worked on site at Western Health within 48 hours of testing positive (PCR test), please contact the Western Health Contact Tracing Team – WHCOVIDContactTracing@wh.org.au
How do I contact staff enquiries?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following detail:
- Work location
- Exposure site and date/enquiry reason
- Contact number/s
If you are emailing about changes to furloughing requirements, please put SOCIAL CONTACT in the subject heading to help the team prioritise your query.
Please be patient with your colleagues in the COVID Staff Enquiries team as they are managing a high volume of queries and are working hard to get back to you as quickly as possible.
Please also be advised that due to system demand, turnaround time for staff results has increased. Staff should not contact Dorevitch Pathology directly in relation to their results. Instead, staff should contact COVID Staff Enquiries if they haven’t received a result after 48 hours.
Where can I get an N95 mask?
Masks are available for collection at the manned entry points of our sites. I recommend staff who are affected by the updated furloughing guidelines (and who need to wear an N95 mask at all times) to take a mask home, ready for your next shift.