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Omnicare increases support in face of social isolation

Mid North Coast-based Omnicare is adjusting to pandemic containment measures while providing practical support to many vulnerable households.

Government restrictions on close contact have prompted the not-for-profit organisation to prioritise ‘essential services’.

Omnicare has maintained its Meals Service and one-to-one support for aged clients and those with a disability. Its Home Modifications and Maintenance Service continues to undertake jobs within current COVID-19 guidelines.

CEO Iggy Pintado said the organisation was operating as fully as circumstances would allow, but was also going beyond regular services.

“First and foremost, we’re delivering services to those clients that rely on us most,” he said.

“This means our support workers continue to meet the needs of aged and disabled clients living in their own homes.

“It also means our staff and volunteers are ensuring there are no interruptions to the hundreds of meals we deliver to clients’ homes each week.

“Our staff are finding other ways to support clients and carers. We’re calling every client household to check on their wellbeing. We’re developing ‘carer kits’ with activity ideas and resources to help counteract the increased social isolation.

“I’m really proud of how our people are reaching out to offer whatever relief we can provide.”

Omnicare has had to suspend operations at its Social Support Centres, where clients maintain community connections and engage in purposeful activities programs. It has also suspended group outings.

The other two areas of focus are on maintaining employment and restricting non-essential expenditure. Omnicare employs around 150 staff from Forster to Sawtell.

“We’re doing all we can to keep people employed for as long as possible,” Mr Pintado said.

“Many are unable to carry out their regular responsibilities, but we’re looking to redeploy as many as we can to other areas of the organisation where they’re needed.

“Where possible also, we’ve encouraged staff to work from home.

“The pandemic situation is changing almost by the hour, and that’s creating uncertainty for everyone in society.

“All Omnicare can do is put plans in place for how we anticipate circumstances might develop and respond appropriately and swiftly when circumstances change.”

Meals wheels keep on turning

A cohort of volunteers is helping maintain regular deliveries of meals to hundreds of households weekly in the Mid North Coast region.

Omnicare Meals Service has adapted to changes in its operations, brought on by the pandemic emergency.

Meals Service manager Alvena Ferguson said its branches at Forster, Taree, Laurieton, Port Macquarie, Wauchope, Kempsey and Sawtell had been working to full capacity in recent weeks.

“We’re getting meals delivered, as we always do,” she said, “but we’re under the pump alright.

“How we deliver the meals has changed for the vast majority of clients. For around 80 per cent of them, we’re leaving the meals outside their front doors – in receptacles they provide for us. The volunteer waits to make sure the meals are brought indoors, otherwise they’re returned to the branch and a new arrangement made.

“For the remainder who wish to continue having someone enter their homes, we’ve implemented our own measures to maintain social distancing and infection control.

“There are some clients whose only regular contact with their community are through the volunteer who calls to their door with their meals. They’re socially isolated as a way of life.”

A few volunteers have dropped off the delivery roster, during the coronavirus clampdown. Omnicare is filling any gaps by redeploying staff from elsewhere in the organisation to its Meals Service branches.

There have been more enquiries from potential clients, Ms Ferguson said, and she anticipated this would increase further as the pandemic situation developed.

Clients will find a welcome addition to their meals. Omnicare Meals Service has itself taken delivery of what is becoming a precious household commodity.

A supermarket chain has furnished Meals On Wheels NSW with toilet rolls to distribute among clients. As an affiliate of the state body, Omnicare’s operation has received its allocation.