NewDirection Care CEO and Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Natasha Chadwick talks about the key health and wellbeing issues of her staff and residents, steps taken to protect and support them. She also explains what’s helped since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australian shores.
Here is Natasha’s first person account of how she and her courageous team of management and carers have worked together to overcome the many challenges faced.
One of our team members was in China during the outbreak, so we were aware of the potential impact of the virus early on and moved quickly.
Our management team started preparing everything towards the end of January early February even though we didn’t know whether it would come or not. It was a good call, I must say.
We were able to stock up on personal protective equipment. The only thing we had a struggle with, at first, was hand sanitizer. We’ve never really had a concern that we wouldn’t be able to meet the demand.
Right from day one, we communicated with our staff. There’s 144 staff members at New Direction Care. Initially we sent daily updates and now they are weekly updates. We have all-team meetings where everyone can talk freely. We also have an online platform so we can continue to be open with our team and they can ask questions.
Most of them realise the importance of their role and doing the right thing, particularly hand hygiene practice and social distancing, because they are the front line for the residents.
Some of the staff are fearful and some have asked to be rostered off because members of their family are at risk or compromised. We have been able to be flexible, but the majority are happy to be hands on.
For those suffering from fearfulness, we have always had an open-door policy which helps. We have an external assistance programme too. As a company, we have our own qualified psychologist. All of this makes a difference.
Additionally, we’ve enabled our staff to use their annual leave where we can. We’ve given them options. We also say thank you a lot with small tokens of appreciation and things like snacks, each team member also receives a meal during their shift.
We developed a survey so we could get as much information from the staff as possible. We asked questions like what they would like to do if there was a case of someone living with us with COVID-19?
A huge number of the staff said they were happy to be rostered in the event of that happening. I was very happy – I can tell you. It shows they understand what they are dealing with.
They understand our core values and the reasons they were hired shone through. What’s helped are our core values of individuality, community, relationships, empathy and respect.
Our family members are overwhelmingly supportive. However, in the early days, we had a couple of incidents.
As far as getting help from the Government, we’ve basically had nothing.
Quite frankly, we are in the front line. A lot of the assistance they have provided to the industry is too late. However, as an organisation we have been able to respond quickly and develop new processes, increase our team and change the way we do things all to protect residents and our team and make sure we don’t let this virus into our microtown. We haven’t really looked for the Government to help us.
We are continuing to recruit and bring people on and develop them. We are one of the few industries employing staff.
Touch wood, we have not had a resident sick for 1-1/2 months. Not even a cold. It’s a good sign from a wellbeing perspective and shows they are doing okay even in this uncertain time and that our team is doing a great job around infection control by not bringing anything into the microtown that could impact on residents.