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Changes to the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme
25 September 2020
Question: Is there any support available to pay staff who are sick with COVID-19 like symptoms and need to stay off work while waiting for a COVID-19 test?
Answer: Following strong advocacy from the Association, we are pleased to see the expansion of the COVID-19 leave scheme with specific arrangement for aged care providers from Monday, 28 September 2020. This gives financial support to pay staff when they stay at home if they are unwell with any COVID-19 symptoms.
The Government is to expand the eligibility to employees who have been told to self-isolate from 28 September 2020. The payment length will change from 4 weeks to 2 weeks, and employers can reapply every two weeks for the same employee if they continue to meet the criteria for Leave Support.
The support is so employers can pay employees while self-isolating. The criteria are to be expanded and are to include staff who are sick with COVID-19 ‘like’ symptoms and work in a health and disability or aged-care facility or service and need to self-isolate while awaiting a test or test result.
Work and Income won’t verify the employee’s reason for self-isolation. Employers will only be asked to declare that their employee advised them that they meet one of the criteria above. For aged care workers it is the employer who decides if an employee needs to self-isolate following best practice guidance from the Ministry of Health. There will not be a requirement for sign-off from a GP to access the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.
Immigration – Critical Purpose Visitor Visa
18 September 2020
What do I need to do to employ an Internationally Qualified Nurse (IQN) from outside of New Zealand during COVID-19 restrictions?
From 10 August 2020, INZ has suspended applications for temporary visas from outside New Zealand. Instead a prospective employee who is overseas will need to apply for an Exemption to Travel as a Critical Health Worker. This is an online form and costs $45. Critical health workers include workers in aged care, including IQNs accepted onto Competence Assessment Programme (CAP) courses.
If the exemption to travel is agreed the applicant will be directed to which visa to apply for. Currently that will be a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa which allows them to work in New Zealand for 6 months. Each part of the process should take up to a week. As was the case before COVID-19, the IQN will need to have a place on a CAP course.
What quarantine charges apply and who pays them?
On arrival into New Zealand there is a minimum 14-day period of quarantine. The person arriving in the country will be liable to a charge which is $3,100 for a single adult. You may make a business decision to contribute to this payment, but that is a matter between the prospective employee and the employer.
How do they apply for a work visa for longer than 6 months?
When in New Zealand the employee will need to apply for a longer work visa. The expectation is that any person granted a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa will meet the criteria. No labour market test applies under the Long Term Skill Shortage List.
Managing resident outings at Level 2
15 September 2020
Question: What is the Association’s advice about resident outings at Level 2?
Answer: Minimising the identified risks is the key to managing this situation. Residents do have the right to go on outings. But family members and friends can also be encouraged to do jobs, shopping etc. for residents to minimize unnecessary excursions.
At Level 2, rest home residents and their friends or family members should be made aware of the increased risks of COVID-19 transmission in the community if the resident chooses to leave the facility for an outing, and that they are all educated by the staff on ways to keep themselves and others safe. They should understand the importance of physical distancing, hand hygiene, the use of masks and infection control practices.
Each rest home resident or their accompanying family member should provide details to the site management on their proposed outing/destination and how many people they are mixing with, and where. The site management will be able to determine the level of clinical risk based on the information they are given prior to an outing and provide the resident and family advice on how to keep safe, or recommend that they postpone the trip if the risks are determined too high.
Use of masks and physical distancing would be encouraged by staff if they are intending on going to destinations with added risk, such as visiting shopping malls, church services. Staff can provide masks to residents if they are travelling by car.
Staff may recommend that returning residents keep their interactions with others to a minimum and consider isolation and testing if they are concerned that the resident has put themselves at risk during an outing.
Question: How can we manage outings by residents who have cognitive impairments who may not understand the risks of COVID-19?
Answer: Management should seek assurance that family members will act responsibly when taking cognitively impaired residents on outings during this current Level 2. Family members accompanying the resident should be asked to compete a declaration about their recent interactions with others (family and members of the public) when picking up the resident.
Question: Residents may not be able to use a mobile phone to contact trace. How do we know where they have been?
Answer: Each rest home resident or their accompanying friend or family member should be asked to provide details on their outing, how many people they are mixing with and where. They or those accompanying them can use a note pad to manual record their outing if a mobile phone is not a suitable option for them.
Day Care Services
11 September 2020
Question: How should day programmes operating from ARC facilities function at the current COVID-19 Alert Levels? I am getting questions on this from a few DHBs.
Answer: Day care programmes would be suspended under Levels 3 and 4 in most circumstances. Under Level 2, a prior risk assessment of the day programme should be undertaken by facility management. Under Level 1, day programmes would operate with rigorous infection prevention and control processes in place.
Further Question: What risks need to be assessed?
Answer: Some risks to consider include whether the resident has been part of the day programme prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, their known family circumstances, their ability to follow direction (including adherence to hygiene protocols and practice), and what level of care they require.
Consider whether there are sufficient staff to provide the correct level of day care requirements within your contractual obligations for both staff and residents to be able to maintain a safe environment.
These considerations would also depend on what region the facility was in (for example, currently Auckland could be considered a higher risk than a rural South Island town).
A large day care service would have more challenges meeting these parameters, than a smaller service. A service with only one or two day care residents per day could be managed much in the way a visitor on site is managed, providing that the environment is suitable to sustain distancing and good IPC practices.
There is a real community need for the resumption of this service, but in a carefully managed way. Ultimately it will be up to facilities with day care contracts as to whether they wish to resume the service and are confident of the processes they have in place.
NZACA members can access the Q&A archive at members.nzaca.org.nz. These are supplied by Rhonda Sherriff, NZACA Clinical Adviser and cover a range of topics including the ARRC Services Agreement, Residents, Audits and Training.
Rhonda is available to provide advice to members between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) on 0800 445 200 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.