When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of Covid-19 a Public Health Emergency of international concern on January 20, 2020, Group CEO of Richmond Club Group, Kimberley Talbot, knew she needed to act fast. Hundreds of lives were in her hands.

The staff and patrons of Richmond Club, Richmond Golf Club and Hawkesbury Living, a residential aged care facility with 134 residents and 140 employees, all come under her care. “My mind went straight to – how am I going to keep the pandemic out? How am I going to keep my workers safe? And how am I going to sanitise the place continually and still be cost effective?” Talbot said, who has led the Group of these community centres, since 2005.

By the time WHO declared a pandemic on March 11, she had a plan in place.

“First of all, we went into a lockdown. It wasn’t a mandatory lockdown by government, but I consulted with our residents and families, wrote letters to the families and consulted about the fact that my biggest concern was once the pandemic got into the nursing home, I felt that it was going to spread and breed very quickly. Infection control is all about sanitising,” Talbot said.

“I knew if I didn’t keep the team working completely on cleaning, I wouldn’t have a chance of keeping Covid out of the nursing home and my mind went straight to Nova Employment.”

Talbot had worked with NOVA for 18 years and knew what type of jobs suited their workers. Immediately she thought about the fact she needed to sanitise each of the high infection areas including door handles, keypads, entryways, where people put their hands, straight away. As soon as people left and arrived.

“NOVA workers have the ability to do a repetitive job that’s consistent. But we had limited time with Richmond Club staff to be able to explain to NOVA what we wanted. It was like, ‘Sharon, we need this,’ said Talbot, referring to NOVA’s Richmond manager, Sharon Turnbull. “I told Sharon we needed people to do this job and we needed it fast. And the ability to know that Sharon and the team at NOVA would listen, follow, without any written instructions on how to do everything. They got it straight away what we wanted to achieve.”

And this was far before the Ruby Princess, and other major outbreaks of the pandemic. Talbot formed a sterilisation team to combat the virus, hiring three workers through NOVA: Nicholas ‘Nick’ Tsrides, Cassandra ‘Cass’ Spiteri and Beverley Smith, who all live with a disability. They were all positioned internally and externally in shifts so as soon as someone walked in, they started cleaning.

So far, this strategy has been “fabulously successful” with no cases of Covid-19 with employees or residents. According to Talbot it was important to understand that while NOVA’s employment pool of candidates might have some disabilities, but also be able to see they have so many abilities.

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