Memo to: People we Support, Families, Guardians and Skills Society Employees
Re: Very Important Message Regarding Prevention and Preparedness for COVID-19 Increasing Cases
From: Senior Leadership of Skills Society
November 16th, 2020 Update
Community Transmission of COVID-19 is Rising and Very Concerning
Health Authorities have been warning Albertans that community transmission is on the rise and every citizen needs to do their part to limit transmission. The Premier(Jason Kenney) and Chief Medical Officer of Health(Dr.Hinshaw) both pleaded last week with all Albertans to reduce social events, to not even have anyone from outside one’s household over to one’s home. They know this is difficult and we at Skills Society know this is deeply difficult and saddening for people we serve to hear. However, if we don’t all reduce physical contact now, we will be in further lockdowns in the coming weeks and months as our health care systems could become seriously overwhelmed. More than ever we all need to do our part to follow city and provincial health orders. We have all heard them many times before like a broken record, but they are the best we have for protecting each other and people we serve. Wash your hands, wear a mask when in public, never go out or come to work if any COVID-19 symptoms, follow our Skills Society safety policies and procedures. Reduce social gatherings as per the Premier and CMOH recommendations. We strongly encourage the people we support and guardians to closely examine what they deem essential outings and limit going out unless absolutely necessary.
What We Have Learned From 8 Months Navigating a Global Pandemic
We really have seen the best of humanity come out in response to supporting and protecting the people we serve. People we support, families and communities have been amazing and adapted to so much in such a short period of time. We recently did an employee survey and the number one thing employees identified as what makes work satisfying and meaningful, is the opportunity to help people with disabilities have good lives. Our employees are really stellar and care about the people we serve like family. We really are a Skills family and we look out for each other. This is heartening and we need to remember that as we move further into winter and still have to deal with COVID-19. We’ll get through it together.
We Are Very Concerned About Staffing Disruptions Beyond Our Control in the Coming Months
Skills Society leadership has been preparing for staffing disruptions since early in the pandemic. However we cannot control all variables of this illness especially as community transmission increases and affects more people. As you know we have very strict safety protocols to protect people we serve and employees as best we can, based on health orders and recommendations. With mandatory isolations of staff with COVID-19 like symptoms or if Health Authorities deem a staff was exposed to a person who is COVID-19 positive, we can end up losing almost whole teams to 10-14 day isolations within hours. If this occurs in multiple homes at the same time, we could all be in a tough situation with limited staffing. The PDD system was not built for pandemics and everyone is doing their best to adapt and navigate.
We have been advocating to our Ministry(CSS) and Health about potential staffing challenges for over 8 months but have had limited responses and to date have heard no concrete plans about how they would help address it. (Our support services are contracted by the Government of Alberta CSS Ministry in support of people with developmental disabilities)
Here’s what Skills Society is doing to address potential staffing shortages
- Advocating to Health and CSS/PDD about this challenge for months and asking for clear plans and help
- Collaborating with other service providers around contingency planning
- Hiring more Casual Support workers for backup staffing support
- Hazard Pay Policy and Safety Procedures to support employees who are able to work with someone confirmed to have COVID-19
- Planning around use of our Woodcroft respite home for emergencies for up to 3 people to isolate and confirmed with COVID-19
- As precautions and preparation we have completed isolation plans and individual and roommate COVID-19 plans with all people we serve and guardians
- Contracts created to subcontract other disability service and home care organizations in the event of significant staffing disruptions (Will only work if the other organization is not also having a staffing shortage)
- Daily monitoring of the number of staff away due to self isolating
- To help ensure staffing to support people we serve, we have generated lists of all staff able or not able to work with people we serve who are confirmed to have COVID-19
- Emergency contract plans drawn up where as a last resort two employees could go in, with proper safety training and PPE and live in a home where there is positive COVID-19 during the 10 day isolation period
- Beginning to ask families again like in the spring that on short notice we may have to ask families and guardians to take a loved one home for an isolation period (usually 10-14 days and once symptoms are gone)
Calling on Families for Support Again
Like in the spring we want to prepare families that we may have to call on those who are able to take home a loved one for a period of time until isolation periods are over and staff are allowed to come back to work. This may come as an urgent call if we start to see significant numbers of staff being unable to come to work. Every effort will be made to avoid this scenario, but we would like families to think through a plan if we do need to call on them to take home a loved one for a temporary period of time. In this scenario, there may be the potential for a family member to come to the home supported by Skills where a family member lives and support them there. Details will be explored on a case by case basis with Managers if this emerges.
Don’t Go Out or Come to Work if Even Mild Symptoms of COVID-19
We will keep repeating the following as it is so important to not get complacent about. Employees are not to come to work if showing any symptoms of COVID-19. Especially check yourself for mild symptoms using the symptom checklist before coming to work and a second time during your shift. As you are already aware, we have provided a list of supports and resources available for employees on the Skills Society Website during COVID-19.
We are a strong collective and we’re looking out for each other. More than ever we need to work together to move through this pandemic as safely as possible.
Gratitude to you all.
Senior Leadership Team of Skills Society
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://skillssociety.ca/covid19-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.