Whiddon CEO Chris Mamarelis hails rapid COVID-19 antigen testing at workplaces after trial

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Chris Mamarelis, CEO of NSW and Queensland aged care provider Whiddon, has hailed rapid antigen testing to protect residents and employees from COVID-19 and believes it can used across workforces.

A two-week trial of antigen testing at the Not For Profit’s largest aged care facility Whiddon Easton Park, in Glenfield, 36km southwest of Sydney’s CBD, helped maintain an adequate workforce in the Sydney region hardest hit by COVID-19.

The rapid antigen testing trial, from 13 to 27 July took place at Whiddon Easton Park, where there are four aged care homes with approximately 750 employees caring for 450 aged care residents.

“With well over 30% of frontline employees living in high-risk LGA’s and low employee vaccination numbers at the start of the trial, Whiddon wanted to do as much as possible to keep residents and employees safe, in addition to their robust screening processes,” said Mr Mamarelis, adding 60% of workers were now vaccinated with more scheduled.

“During the trial, an employee was identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive to COVID-19 and worked three shifts following the transmission risk, before being identified as a contact. He had returned negative rapid antigen tests before each shift, which provided reassurance for everyone that the risk of infection to other employees and residents was low,” said Mr Mamarelis (pictured).

After contacting the Federal Department of Health, Whiddon partnered with Dr Ian Norton and Respond Global, a health crisis response agency. 5,180 tests, about 370 tests per day, were conducted and all returned negative results.

“We saw that employees, residents and families overwhelmingly indicated that rapid antigen testing gave them confidence that employees and residents weren’t at risk. 91% of employees, 88% of residents and 92% of families said that they felt reassured that Whiddon is doing the right thing to protect them, their families and residents,” said Mr Mamarelis.

“This reassurance is critical to maintaining adequate staffing levels to care for residents during high-risk periods, as in previous lockdowns we have seen higher levels of absenteeism. It is also an important measure to demonstrate to our employees that they are valued and their concerns are heard and respected.

“It takes between just 10 and 12 minutes to get the result, so there was no need to alter rosters. It did not cause any inconvenience.”