Memo to: People we Support, Families, Guardians and Skills Society Employees
Re: Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-Corona Virus (COVID-19)
From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society
September 18th, 2020 Update
As per usual we always start by reminding our Skills community we continue to follow direction and information provided by Health Authorities. As you know, the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving and we are always working diligently to be as responsive to new information as possible and do everything in our power to protect the citizens with disabilities we serve, our employees and community. Currently we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in anyone we support nor any employee.
Message from Executive Director, Ben Weinlick
Safeguards and our procedures work to reduce the spread!
With the small individual cases in August of COVID-19 in our Skills Community, we were relieved that there was no further spread. This is thanks to swift action, following policies and procedures and wearing and disposing of PPE properly. Kudos to individuals we serve, families, guardians and employees for the calm way we all safeguarded and navigated the cases together. Everyone was very empathetic, supportive and stepped up to help. We really do have an amazing Skills Society community. We learned a lot, we were prepared and we have further learned and implemented procedures to be even better prepared for future cases of COVID-19.
One thing we are learning that continues to be challenging is the volume of information, and procedures that come from health authorities and then having to synthesize and pass the information as clearly as possible to people we serve, families, guardians and employees. We do our best to get this information out as soon as possible in as clear a way as possible. We also rely on Team Leaders and Managers to continue the amazing work they do to regularly check in, support teams and families, clarify questions and help problem solve emergent challenges. Below you will find the new health orders that have guided some updates to Individual and Roommate COVID-19 plans as well as a cascade of updates to COVID-19 procedures.
Remember we do not have any licensed facilities of health funding. We support people in their own homes, and the people we serve procure our supports with approved funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services – PDD. People we serve and their guardians have rights and responsibilities in the decisions and risks they assume around activities undertaken during the global pandemic. We are recommended to follow the health orders as best we can and adapt them to non medical settings.
What is a bit different with the new CMOH order 32-2020 is that the province is off-loading more decision making around COVID-19 processes to individuals, guardians and service providers. There is flexibility in this, but also it means that Skills Society will continue a cautious approach.
As you know we are very serious about the safety, physical and mental health, and wellbeing of the people we serve and our employees. During the pandemic our risk tolerance is low and we want to do everything in our power to protect people as best we can. We cannot control everything around the pandemic, community spread has increased and people we serve and guardians make their own decisions around their lives and activities. We will continue to adapt and evolve as the pandemic unfolds and protect people as best we can.
New CMOH Order 32-2020
CMOH Order 32-2020 came into effect September 17th, 2020 and includes updated operational and outbreak standards for licensed supportive living, long-term care and hospice settings. Health Authorities and our ministry(CSS/PDD) continue to strongly recommend that individuals funded by PDD, follow facility-based guidelines as best they can while balanced with supporting mental health and wellbeing. Skills does not operate licensed facilities, we support people in their own homes, therefore we implement the guidelines from these orders in two ways: (1) by implementing safeguards and procedures that our employees are required to follow in order to protect the people we support, our employees and community, and (2) by sharing the recommendations with the people we serve to make informed decisions about their own preferences and risk tolerance during COVID-19.
New Recommendations (CMOH Order 32-2020)
Health Authorities and our ministry (CSS/PDD) continue to strongly recommend that individuals funded by PDD, follow guidelines put out for what the provincial government is calling “At Risk Albertans (Facility Based)”.
New recommendations from CMOH Order 32-2020 include:
- Shifting to a risk-based approach based on risk of unknown exposure of COVID-19 when returning from outings or overnight stays
- Individuals are recommended to consider their (and/or their visitors’) risk of unknown exposure when having visitors to their home and upon returning from outings (see Table 9 on page 26 of CMOH Order 32-2020)
- For recommended safety precautions upon returning from an outing see Table 10 on page 28 of CMOH Order 32-2020
- For recommended safety precautions upon returning from an overnight stay see Table 11 on page 29 of CMOH Order 32-2020
These new recommendations (and associated tables) have been added to the Skills Society Relaunch Plan, Social Distancing for People we Serve Procedure, and the Individual COVID-19 Relaunch Plan Template.
What continues and is clearer in the new orders is that decisions related to going out into community and having visitors inside and outside the home are more in the hands of people we serve and their guardians. To do our part as part of the Skills Society Stage 2 relaunch, Managers led conversations with individuals we serve and their guardians to create customized individual and roommate COVID-19 plans to help with safe decision making and strategies to keep people as safe as possible.
With the weather changing and the above new recommendations from CMOH, we require all individuals supported by Skills and their guardians to review, amend(if applicable), and sign updated individual and roommate plans. To do this, next week, Managers will start reaching out and setting up times to facilitate a review and update of individual and roommate plans.
Reviews, updates and signatures on plans will need to be completed by October 31st, 2020. Once a plan is reviewed, signed by all involved, and witnessed by the Manager, the individual and their supports may begin following what is outlined in the updated plan. Due to the pandemic and safety we can accept verbal confirmation of signatures with dates and times recorded from the planning conversation(s) which will be required to be written into the plans in the appropriate areas. *Note: Those living with other people supported by Skills Society (i.e. roommates) also need to review the COVID-19 Roommate Agreement. Until all applicable plans are reviewed, agreed to, and signed, staff and people we serve are asked to follow all current individual and roommate COVID-19 plans.
As you review plans together we would like you to also consider and remember the following
Many people we support have roommates whom they live with. Roommates need to consider each other’s needs and support each other to be as safe as possible. We ask that you consider your roommates’ health, support each other to be as safe as possible, and follow provincial, city bylaws and COVID-19 orders and recommendations, while balancing these with mental and physical wellbeing needs. COVID-19 is likely to be with us in Canada and a threat to ‘at-risk individuals’ until a vaccine is created.
The Principles that Guide Our Skills Society Approach
The following four principles continue to guide us as we navigate the relaunch:
- Cautious – Safeguarding people we serve and employees as best we can
- Balanced – Always balancing precautions with safeguarding the mental and physical well being of the people we serve.
- Responsive – Evolving as we learn new information and receive different recommendations from Health Authorities.
- Informed – Incorporating the latest information and evidence from Health Authorities and our ministry, CSS/PDD.
Reminder on the Different Parts of Our Relaunch Package
This is a comprehensive document that outlines our approach to the relaunch as well as the recommendations and expectations in place across all aspects of the organization.
The Individual COVID-19 Relaunch plans were completed as part of a process facilitated by Managers, Coordinators, and Team Leaders with the people we serve and guardians where applicable at the start of Skills Stage 2 relaunch. This document, and the facilitated process, supports the individual in exploring their own preferences and risk tolerance during COVID-19 relaunch and prompts them to make decisions that reflect their wishes and needs related to outings, visitors, and in home living. Built into this document are summaries of the most recent CMOH (Chief Medical Officer of Health) recommendations and places for individuals to go for more information as they learn and identify their wishes and needs.
Those who live with others supported by Skills Society, also worked with their roommate(s) to complete the “Roommate Agreement for COVID-19 Relaunch”.
This document is meant to help facilitate conversations between people supported by Skills Society living with one another in their own home(i.e., roommates). Although this document represents an agreement based on one conversation, we encourage roommates to continually have open discussion and conversation with one another as circumstances related to COVID-19 change. As we do not run any licensed health facilities, but support people with disabilities in their own homes in community, the wishes and preferences of citizens we serve are a key part of our relaunch strategy.
We greatly appreciate your patience and support as we continue to navigate these times. Please know that we are working our hardest to keep the people we serve and our staff as safe as possible.
Ben Weinlick, Executive Director and the Senior Leadership Team
For More Information
- If you are a family or guardian and require additional information please be in touch with the manager associated with your loved one’s support.
- If you are a Skills Employee and require additional information you can be in touch with your supervisor or pandemic coordinators, Linda or Ed at 780-496-9686.
- Keep up to date on our COVID-19 Resources section on our website: https://www.skillssociety.ca/covid-19-resources/.
Previous Public Memos
Public Memos are available on our website under the ‘news’ tab.
Note: What’s happening with COVID-19 is changing rapidly. We become aware of new information from the provincial and federal governments and health authorities on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. We are working hard to be responsive to this new information as it becomes available. As such, information in this memo may change and quickly become outdated. We are doing our best to communicate new information to the people we support, families, guardians, and staff in a timely manner.