Covid-19: Concern for New Zealand disability community, support workers after modeling predicts wide spread of Omicron
With the government announcing that New Zealand was going through a red light due to community cases of Omicron, many again prepared to work from home and stocked up on food from the supermarket.
But for some people in the disability community, worrying about basic necessities during the pandemic was an added concern – especially with experts expecting Omicron could infect half of all New Zealanders within a matter of hours. month.
Christchurch resident Scott Boyle said the start of the pandemic was “pretty difficult” as his support workers were dealing with 10 clients a day.
“The thought of just one of those support workers getting infected would cause a pretty big outbreak.”
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The 27-year-old man has spinal muscular atrophy type 2 and uses a wheelchair.
He has a team of seven permanent support workers who call him three times a day – his staff help him with personal care, such as showering and toileting.
A possible outbreak of Omicron was “certainly concerning”.
“It’s quite stressful and it affects you in different ways, you don’t necessarily think about it until it hits you,” Boyle said.
Even though all of its staff wear face masks and use hand sanitizer before entering their homes, due to the nature of personal care work, “there’s not much you can really do about it. preventing transmission when you’re so close, which is a concern.”
Kerri Bonner, 34, has a team of four support workers who help her with physical activities like dressing, eating, meal preparation and grocery shopping.
The Christchurch resident with cerebral palsy employs support staff herself and finds them through Student Job Search and Trade Me.
“Because I’m the employer, it gives me a lot of responsibility to manage the health and safety aspect. If I catch Covid I will obviously still need support, but it’s about figuring out how to make it safe for my support staff.
Bonner could also ask staff to stand down if he had been at a place of interest and had to self-isolate until his test results came back, which would put additional pressure on other members of the support staff.
She also had to think about what would happen if several workers received Omicron at the same time.
“I’ve been very lucky so far that if someone gets sick the other support staff will cover, and they’re very good at doing that,” she said.
“It would be nice if there was more guidance from the Department of Health on how people with disabilities who employ their own staff should handle this, as we are employers and we have a responsibility to ensure that our support staff work in a safe environment. path.”
Hannah McLaren, 31, is a person with a disability who was able to find a job thanks to the normalization of working from home arrangements during the pandemic. Previously, her reduced mobility had prevented her from working for many years.
Many disability support organizations in New Zealand are finding new ways to manage staff to ensure the safety of employees and the people they support.
CCS Disability Action has approximately 800 home and community support workers across the country.
The organization had split its direct-contact staff into different bubbles so there were always support workers available, chief executive Mel Smith said.
“It might not be someone’s ordinary person, but by keeping them in separate bubbles that don’t cross paths in the workplace, our goal is to always have people who don’t need to self-isolate or who are not sick, because the I think the self-isolation part will also become an issue, not just the illness,” she said.
The organization also provided information and resources for people with disabilities on what they could do to keep themselves safe.
“I think it’s a fear that people don’t control if they can be safe because you can’t see it,” Smith said. “We’re really aware of the choices we make and that they become really obvious and transparent choices, as opposed to things we think about later.
“And if you add on top of that, worries about whether you’ll catch the virus, what it might mean for your health and well-being, it becomes an incredibly anxiety-provoking time for people.”
Geneva Healthcare provides home health care to a range of clients – people with disabilities, the elderly and people recovering from illness or injury.
He expected between 10 and 30 percent of the staff to be absent at any given time.
“Our planning includes implementing a number of measures: having additional qualified casual staff available, increasing our attraction and recruitment efforts to attract more staff, working with our colleagues at DHB, ACC and the Department of Health as well as other industry providers to identify opportunities to support each other and share workloads,” said Josephine Gagan, Group Chief Executive of New Zealand Health Group.
“We have a specialist ‘rapid response’ team who are only there to fill in the gaps left by regular staff to ensure our customers continue to be looked after.”
Health and safety are of “utmost importance” in the current outbreak, says Maggie Polotu, national clinical manager at Drake Medox, a disability support and home care recruitment agency.
“We continue to focus on the physical health and safety of our customers by ensuring that our staff receive their reminders for the protection of our customers and the community, provide PPE as needed and adhere to strict health measures. and security,” she said.