Story By Julie Norman, Team Leader of Scheduling and Allocations at AQA.
I am so proud of the Scheduling and Allocations Team (S&A), and our mobile workforce. When the case numbers from the Omicron wave were skyrocketing, and many in the disability community were struggling to find available support workers, we worked in partnership with clients whose programs were affected, to ensure they continued to receive the support they needed and to innovate where that was helpful.
We listened and supported our workforce on the front line; we were strong for them when they were in tears. We listened to and supported clients who were fearful of getting COVID-19, were fearful of how their supports would be delivered while people were in isolation, or had concerns about how they could get tested.
A joint effort
We reassured our clients that we would continue supporting them, sometimes asking them to change their shifts around, asking family members to help, and sending full personal protective equipment (PPE) packs via taxi to their homes. The flexibility and understanding of our clients is greatly appreciated.
On Christmas Eve last year, the S&A team had celebrated our having set up the supports our clients needed to enjoy a relaxed festive season. We had looked forward to starting 2022 on the front foot.
Sadly, that was not to be the case. In the three days after Christmas, something was changing. We could see the COVID-19 cases increasing in the community. Before we knew it, we had 186 additional shifts to fill.
On our return in 2022, the first four days were just as challenging as the week before: our hard work of 2021 was wiped out by the avalanche of COVID-19 cases and contacts. And we were down two members of the S&A team, due to isolation.
The team stepped up and put in extra hours, and in turn we asked more of our already limited mobile workforce. We had to start working from home every day, which changed our working dynamics and tested the team.
Our language changed: no more “Covid-19”; now it was just “covid-positive”. “Quarantine” is so last year! In 2022 it’s “isolation”, or simply “iso”. We started asking about dates – not the fun dates – dates of PCR or RAT testing, and dates for when iso ended.
In the first week of 2022, the S&A team had 50 calls from staff or clients that needed to isolate. We needed to fill another 398 shifts.
Diligent and determined
Our mobile workforce! What an amazing group of people we have supporting our clients. The diligence of our support workers in alerting us to symptoms, and their concern for client safety. The staff who without hesitation took on extra shifts, and put on full PPE in the heat to continue supporting our clients.
The second week of 2022 bought another 31 covid-positive related calls, and 275 extra shifts to fill.
We talked of RATs like they are as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. “Close contact” were not words we wanted to hear. “Stay safe” became a plea and a heartfelt message to support workers, colleagues and clients who were worried and scared. Testing centers closed down due to extreme heat. PCR tests were taking over seven days to get results, or worse, were lost forever.
And this was just our first two weeks! Welcome to 2022! We look forward to the rate of new COVID cases falling – and whatever happens, to supporting our fabulous community to stay safe and well.
- February 24, 2022