Echuca Moama businesses face COVID-19 rapid test

A national news snippet on Channel Seven showing a coffee shop owner using COVID-19 rapid test equipment has thrown Echuca businesses into a spin.

Maureen Kyne, a Shepparton-based workplace crisis strategist, is working with the Committee for Echuca Moama to provide support with the ever changing conditions and requirements on the twin towns’ business community.

She told The Riv she was shocked when she heard about a Melbourne coffee shop owner considering the the use of rapid test procedures in his business.

“How on earth did they get hold of these tests?

“The TGA (Therapeutic Goods Association) has really strict rules around the use of rapid tests,” she said.

“They must be supervised.”

The kits come under the jurisdiction of the TGA, which has specific guidelines in regard to their use.

Rapid test kits have been put together for the use of health professionals and trained staff, which raises further questions regarding the use of them in a coffee shop scenario.

“SPC, for example, if they wanted to test their staff they could introduce rapid tests,” Ms Kyne said.

“As long as it was a medical practitioner, or qualified person, who administered it.

“What protocols does a business have in place if someone tests positive?” she said.

With the recognised inaccuracy of the rapid test process, problems with a potential false negative reading become an issue.

“People could potentially walk away with false information, therefore it becomes misleading and the potential for them to go to [places where vulnerable people can be exposed].

“It is a bizarre scenario,” she said.

Ms Kyne has worked in the industrial relations landscape for the past 15 years, specialising in workplace behaviours.

She recently attended her first meeting of the C4EM after a request from chief executive officer Deanne Armstrong, with whom she worked closely in Shepparton

“I’ve specialised in the space of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination,” Ms Kyne said.

“In the modern world there is a lot of work around COVID-19 and what businesses can do to plan and work in these new conditions.

“I am working with businesses who are considering making vaccinations mandatory or who need help in implementing a strategy to work with their staff, and customers.

“It’s a whole new playing field for everyone at the moment, creating a lot of uncertainty and stress.

“Nobody is sure what to do from a legal perspective,” she said.

Like many of her colleagues, and certainly most of the business community, Ms Kyne is writing the rule book as she plays the game.

“Along with everyone else, my expertise in this field is from day to day as regulators change the rules continuously.

“It’s a minefield we are walking into,” she said.

Industrial manslaughter laws in Victoria include clauses about illness and make reference to employees who become ill in the workplace.

“Its intention is for things like asbestos, and so forth. You could potentially be charged under those laws in a severe COVID outcome,” she said.

Ms Kyne said coffee shop or retail outlet scenarios were much more difficult to mandate than an industrial workplace.

“From a work health safety perspective, you are expected to provide a safe workplace.

“Businesses will need to do a risk assessment for their businesses to protect themselves and their staff.

“What is the potential risk for their staff getting COVID, and what that might mean to them?

“For example, a pharmacist, their clients are generally unwell people. If I was a pharmacist I would be mandating vaccinations for my staff,” she said.

Ms Kyne said the key component of business communication with staff was consultation.

“They need to talk with their staff, [and say] ‘this is what we would like to do’.

“Most people are lining up to do the jab, many businesses will not need to go down that mandatory track, but everything needs to be documented,” she said.

Businesspeople in Echuca and Moama will no doubt be keen to keep up-to-date on the rules and workplace laws regarding COVID-19.

Ms Kyne said the entire business community was extremely anxious.

“People want to protect their business and will do most things to achieve that goal.

“We have seen workplaces introduce drug and alcohol testing. If this happens with COVID there needs to be a policy behind it.

“Business people need to document everything and cover themselves, because they are the ones that will be liable.”