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Family Planning NSW’s new clinic was being built when hard COVID-19 lockdowns halted the construction sector. Here’s how rapid antigen testing technology has helped the project continue.

Family Planning NSW is a state-wide organisation that promotes reproductive and sexual health through its network of clinics. Its clinical practice is underpinned by internationally recognised research.

The challenge

Construction work had begun on Family Planning NSW’s new education facility and state-of-the-art clinic at Newington in Sydney’s west, when a new outbreak of COVID-19 caused Sydney, and then NSW, to go into lockdown. With higher case numbers compared to 2020, the 2021 outbreak forced the NSW Government to impose harsher restrictions on industries such as construction, which paused temporarily, and workers from local government areas of concern.

When onsite work in the sector was allowed to resume, part of the government roadmap included testing workers regularly to ensure COVID-19 cases could be traced and contained in a timely manner.

The solution

My Occ Health Record (MOHR) worked with Family Planning NSW, project manager CBRE, and building partner SHAPE to provide a rapid antigen screening solution that would satisfy government requirements as well as keep the workforce on site safe.

Rapid antigen tests are cheap, easy-to-use kits that return COVID-19 test results in as little as 15 minutes. While not as accurate as the standard PCR tests used at COVID-19 testing clinics, they provide a useful early indicator of a potential case and, importantly, can be used frequently and at scale, ensuring business continuity.

If a worker’s test is non-negative, the COVID marshal can then send them to get a PCR test for confirmation. The worker must isolate until they receive those results.

MOHR’s rapid antigen testing technology also allows the organisation to identify other people who may be affected, for example staff on the worker’s team or a client they may have met with recently, to encourage them to take a PCR test and isolate as well.

The rollout

Luke Lubrano from CBRE is a senior project manager on the Family Planning NSW facility construction project. He says the key need for the rapid antigen screening process was “to ensure the safety of the workers and any visitors to site, and allow people to feel comfortable to come to work”.

After a lot of upfront planning with the stakeholders – the client Family Planning NSW, the builder SHAPE and the technology provider MOHR – they decided to start slow.

“We didn’t jump into it and try to test everybody that came to site,” Lubrano explains. “We obviously tested the people that required the testing under the government regulations. We forecasted the trades that would need testing coming to site so the nurses had a clear idea of how many people they need to test each morning.”

When they eventually started testing everyone on site, the team ended up staggering the entry times for workers over an hour, in 15-minute increments, to ease crowding.

Lubrano credits the shared vision of the parties involved – “working together collaboratively with the common goal of creating this safe workplace” – which made the rollout a smooth one. While Family Planning NSW provided the nursing staff and SHAPE communicated with the contractors and subcontractors, MOHR took the lead on the steps needed to successfully collect and manage tests from the workforce.

“We were leaning on MOHR to provide that structure and process, which they did,” says Lubrano. “The whole process was new and it was quite comforting to see how simple [MOHR] had made that process: there were simple slides and posters of the steps to download the app and how that then works.”

Lessons learnt

Every site and every workplace is different, so it pays to invest time and effort upfront making sure you know how a rapid antigen screening process would work for your organisation. Consider the capacity of your premises, the availability of COVID marshals and assisting staff, and the access management protocols you have in place.

Be clear on how you will manage workers who do not return a negative test, for example directing them to the nearest clinic do a standard PCR test and giving them instructing them to isolate, as well as how you will communicate with other potential contacts.

Lubrano recognises that the team did the right thing by starting small. He recommends that other organisations looking to roll out rapid antigen screening should consider a short pilot program or starting at a manageable level.

“There was obviously a lot of planning upfront: we didn’t just jump into it,” he notes. “Poor planning will lead to poor outcomes. The important thing is to get the process right upfront and if you’ve planned well, you’ve set yourself up to succeed.”

The verdict

Once the rapid antigen screening process was in place, the site effectively became a workplace of choice, Lubrano remarks.

“The feedback that I received from the builders was that the subcontractors and contractors were actually calling them to try to send staff to our site once we had this up and running. The key driver for that was we had a safe environment and people felt comfortable to go to the work site because of the protocols we had in place. And the chances of the site being shut down was also reduced by this process. It was a good draw card.”

It also saved workers a lot of hassle, particularly those who were travelling from local government areas of concern where, at one point, it was mandatory to undergo PCR testing once every three days in order to leave the area.

“It’s been great that instead of having to go in line up at a public testing clinic every three days, they’ve been able to come to site,” says Lubrano. “It’s enabled our project to continue without disruption. And, without it, it would be very difficult.”

Protect your workplace

The My Occ Health Record Rapid Antigen Testing Screening Technology gives you access to real-time data to power your COVID-safe workplan.

  • Capture test results
  • Notify key stakeholders of any issues
  • Provide governance
  • Securely store records
  • Reduce manual administration
  • Ensure business continuity
  • Manage health and safety of your workforce

Stay safe, stay informed and stay in business. Download the comprehensive guide.

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