VICTORIAN-BASED aged care workers at one of Mount Gambier’s residential facilities are likely to lose their jobs after their applications to enter South Australia to work were rejected by the state’s health department.
Boandik aged care worker and Nelson resident Debbie Brockie’s employment future is uncertain following an unsuccessful attempt to gain permission to travel into South Australia for work.
Shortly after South Australian Police Commissioner announced a crackdown on cross-border travellers, the Boandik lifestyle coordinator sought an exemption from SA Police under the health services essential traveller category.
Ms Brockie was advised by SA Police an exemption letter from SA Health was required to progress the application.
On Thursday, Ms Brockie sought an approval letter under health exemptions, citing her employment and accompanied by a letter of support from Boandik management.
However, she was advised on Sunday afternoon the SA Health Exemptions Panel had met to review and discuss the her case and travel into South Australia was not granted.
“There was no reason at all, it just said I had been declined,” Ms Brockie said.
“I just kept reading it in disbelief.
“I really do not get it because aged care is essential and we have abilities and certificates which are required to do the things we do.”
Ms Brockie said an offer to house the six Victorian-based aged care staff in a unit for the purposes of work was rejected by SA Health.
“If worse had come to worse, we were going to get a unit for the girls from Dartmoor and Nelson to share and that was put to SA Health and it was declined,” she said.
“As we are not entitled to JobKeeper, we are trying to work out what other options are available to us given we cannot get across the border to work.
“We will probably have to use our annual leave and long service leave which is not fair given we worked hard for that.”
The Border Watch asked the state’s health department why aged care workers were not considered as an essential traveller under the new direction, with a SA
Health spokesperson stating travel exemptions were considered on a case by case basis and take account local epidemiology, including evidence of community transmission.
Boandik chief executive officer Gillian McGinty said the application, made under the health services category, was the last type of exemption workers could apply for.
“The application had to be made by the staff member but we wrote a letter of support detailing the importance of having sufficient staff to provide care to our residents,” she said.
“We did not receive any information from SA Health about why they have been rejected.
“The staff have put in a lot of different applications about what exemptions they could apply for and it is very stressful for our staff working through this whole process.
Ms McGinty said the loss of the six aged care workers would affect both the well-being of the individuals and the operations of the facility,
“The implications are that it will have a significant impact on the residents who are not able to come to work and do not have any income,” she said
“It will also have a significant impact on the residents and the organisation with the availability of staff.
“(The lifestyle coordinators) spent a lot of time working with residents on a daily basis and creating fun activities they are interested in.
“It really enhances the quality of life with our residents and are an integral part of our organisation.”
At a press conference on Monday, South Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Michael Cusack said the review of exemptions were “balanced against the risk of virus for a person who is coming from that particular area”.
“There is a balance of risk in the terms of rate of infection and certain localities,” he said.
“As we look at Victoria at the moment, clearly there is a significant risk of contagion and as people come across the border.
“Clearly the public health risk changes day by day, week by week, so what might be considered as a safe shire at one point becomes unsafe at another.
“The risk is particularly acute if people come across the Victorian border into South Australia because we know there is a higher rate of virus there.”