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Moama aged care home understaffed due to border anomaly

By Ivy Jensen

ANOTHER border anomaly has left at least one Moama aged care home severely understaffed and the lives of their elderly residents at risk.

Ten staff, including nurses and care workers, at Murrayvale Aged Care home who live outside the border bubble are no longer able to cross the border for work after a change was made to their permits on Thursday.

Acting manager Kathryn Eyre said two staff, who lived in Rochester, were turned away at the Moama border on Thursday because their permits were no longer deemed valid.

“They have been attending work for the last fortnight with an extraordinary permit and special code as well as an endorsement letter from the Menarock Life CEO, yet today (Thursday) they were turned away,” she said.

“The only way they can go to work is if they fly to Sydney and drive down to Moama.

“They were both sent home and are extremely upset. They feel like they’ve let us and the residents down.”

Menarock Murrayvale aged care acting manager Kathryn Eyre with resident Val Phillips. Photo: Cath Grey

Ms Eyre said over the next five days, 10 affected staff were rostered on for different shifts.

“This will leave us seriously compromised,” she said.

“Ten staff is about 10 per cent of our total workforce, so where are we supposed to pull them from because we have no relief workforce?

“This will seriously impact on the care we are providing … and will put us in serious disarray.

“We are doing our best to see who we can pull in to fill the gaps at short notice. We’ve got our maintenance man doing our laundry and another team member helping out with care. We’re putting the shoulder to the wheel and trying to pull together.”

Ms Eyre said the COVID-19 pandemic was already having a huge impact on the aged care sector, and not allowing staff to do their job was another kick in the guts.

The Riv understands Southern Cross Care Moama is having the same problems.

Menarock Murrayvale Aged Care's Sue Jasch and acting manager Kathryn Eyre with residents Val Phillips and Graeme Crawford. Photo: Cath Grey

“This is doing major damage to the mental health of a lot of people, particularly in the aged care sector, who are just trying to do the right thing,” Ms Eyre said.

“They feel like they’re letting the residents down and are really distressed by this. It’s traumatising for staff to be told they can’t go to work.

“Aged care is being pummelled at the moment and people are getting scared about working in this environment. And it’s not helping when staff are met with barriers when they’re just trying to do their jobs.

“We are being discriminated against. I understand the border issues and processes, but where’s the common sense?”

Murrayvale has contacted Victorian Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh and NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton, who said she immediately made an urgent representation to the NSW Health Minister.

“It’s very disappointing that the NSW Government are traumatising the workers we need most during this pandemic with their idiotic rules,” Ms Dalton said.

“They are also putting the lives of our elderly residents at risk, as there will be a lack of staff to look after them.

“The border bubble needs to be expanded immediately, not in 10 days, to allow these workers to cross.”

Helen Dalton at the NSW border crossing.

Fourteen staff at Byford Equipment were also refused entry into Moama on Thursday morning.

“They had a unique code to get in and that was changed overnight and we were not made aware,” procurement manager Belinda Gilbert said.

“We are being reissued new permits, so hopefully we’ll be back on track for tomorrow.”

While she considered the Moama company fortunate compared to many other businesses in the community, Ms Gilbert said the constant border anomalies were frustrating.

“There is a shadow hanging over our head every day wondering if it will be changed again,” she said.

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said this sudden about-turn on the bridge had to be a major glitch.

Mr Walsh said on Thursday, August 27, he got on to the NSW Government “about 7.30am, when I got the first call about it, to try and have this corrected before start of business tomorrow”.

“The NSW Government has been very supportive so far of changes needed, such as the new extended borders I pushed for and which come into effect, hopefully, by the middle of next week,” he said.

“I understand other crossing points have not presented the same reactions, so I am hopeful we won’t have the same problems tomorrow.

“But as soon as I have an answer from NSW, I will post it on my Facebook.”

Murray River Police District Inspector Paul Huggett said the police border scanners had been updated overnight into Thursday, so some previously approved permits were now invalid.

He said one police officer had to refuse entry to 10 people on Thursday.

“In the majority of cases, people are just pulled over to the side and police are helping them get a new permit,” he said.

“I would just ask people be patient and tolerant, as police are working as hard as they can to get people who have a lawful reason over the border.”

He also confirmed some vehicles had been searched at the border.

“If we form a reasonable suspicion to search a vehicle, we will,” he said.

NSW Department of Customer Service confirmed NSW Police Force scanners were recently updated to “make permit conditions easier to read when scanning a border permit”.

A spokesperson said Victorian critical service workers who lived or worked outside the border region must complete an additional step when applying for a border permit.

“The head of the organisation performing the critical service must register for the permit on behalf of the workers,” they said.

“If successful, the workers will be issued an individual registration code to use in their permit application form. These workers must then fly to Sydney with their permit and all supporting documentation and travel directly to their place of work. They must self-isolate when not working, but do not need to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine.”

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