Disseminated to staff by email 16th March 2020.
Further to the College of Medicine and Public Health Forum today and in conjunction with messages from the Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students), this email provides further information with regards to our College response and actions to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of our staff and students and the broader community.
To ensure staff and students receive timely and accurate advice on decisions made about teaching, research, placements, work arrangements and University operations, I will be providing weekly updates by email, or as often as required. To avoid confusion or misinterpretation of decisions, directives to staff and students to either continue working or attend class or placements, will only be made by me and the College COVID-19 Taskforce. Our response to COVID-19 is our highest priority and our care for our staff and students is paramount.
A College specific email address has been established and please feel welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns that require our attention. A College website is being developed and will be live soon. It will include information about COVID-19 that is specific to our College, and include resources such as the PowerPoint from today’s forum.
College and University events
Given the increasing concern about the spread of COVID-19 in the community, the College is now asking staff to cancel or defer any non-essential events and seminars until advised otherwise. From Monday 16 March this will apply to all College events hosted on our campuses including student, academic and public events, seminars and conferences. This does not, however, extend to our regular teaching and research activity at this stage.
The University has confirmed the cancellation of April 2020 graduation ceremonies. Graduates will still be able to receive their parchments, and one or more alternate celebration events later in the year will be considered if possible. The University will communicate further about this in due course.
Meetings should only take place if considered essential, and where appropriate meeting space is available to facilitate social distancing.
We anticipate it may not be possible to resume College events for some months. For any queries about individual events, please consult with members of the College Executive team.
Planning is underway within the College to enhance and progressively move as much of our teaching to online delivery mode as possible. This is to help reduce the risk of the potential spread of the virus through face-to-face interaction, and to facilitate greater social distancing. Staff are advised to move teaching online where possible as soon as practical.
There is an existing culture of collaboration in the College around educational offerings and the topics and courses we provide already have a mixture of online and face-to-face formats. Academic and professional staff are already planning options to change course delivery, with the support of CILT and IDS. Training sessions for staff looking to upskill in the delivery of online teaching and the various tools available will commence this week, facilitated by CILT and the College. Funding for additional online learning support and resources will be available.
Many of our students are undertaking their learning in clinical environments, and this should continue as usual. The College remains in close communication with SA Health, NT Health, the SA Ambulance Service, regional and remote health services, general practices and other clinical services where our students are currently located, and will follow the necessary directives of these stakeholders as they evolve. Supporting our students in the clinical learning environment is important and the College is also working closely with the relevant student bodies to disseminate information.
Please talk with Alison Jones, Dean (Education) about any support you may need to facilitate your transition to the online learning environment. Further information and resources for online teaching and learning are available on the staff website.
The College has been working with the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) to inform relevant strategies associated with research activity across the University. An Animal Facility Contingency Plan for COVID-19 is in development within the College, as well as strategies for participant-based research.
Local areas should consider contingency plans for their research environment in the event that staff are unable to attend work and clear instructions regarding key infrastructure and experiments should be in place.
Laboratories should consider minimising the number of people in a lab at any one time, reconsider any planned long-term experiments and consider contingency plans for any experiments already initiated. Please ensure that laboratory records are up to date, ensure data is backed up and clearly labelled with access instructions for others.
Strategies to support HDR and Honours students and supervisors are also being considered.
Seminar series in the College will be postponed until further notice.
Please talk with Ross McKinnon, Dean (Research) about any specific research-related matters that may be impacted by COVID-19.
Some corporate services in the College are considered essential and are required to continue in the event that University operations are impacted by COVID-19. Plans have been prepared and are being further developed and tested for a variety of contingencies.
All staff are asked to identify and confirm with their supervisor a delegate who could undertake their role in the event that they become unwell.
Depending on the duration of any impact, essential corporate services could include:
- WHS services
- Financial transaction approval and support
- P&C matters such as employment variations, contract extension and recruitment processes
- Contract and legal support
- Space and facilities services
- College communications
The planning for continuation of these services includes consideration of all our locations.
Nearly all these services can be continued by primary and backup staff working from home or an alternate location using a laptop and internet connection. In cases where this may not be possible, such as physical facility services, additional plans are being developed.
Please talk with Ian Smith, Director of College Services if you have any questions about corporate services and University operations.
International and Domestic Travel
As per the University update on 10 March, the University’s travel insurers have advised that COVID-19 is now considered a ‘known event’ for all countries, which means that claims for costs relating to COVID-19 are unlikely to be covered by the University’s travel insurance.
- Until advised otherwise, no non-essential international travel will be approved.
- Any requests for International travel which may be ESSENTIAL must be first reviewed by the College VP&ED or Head of Portfolio and then submitted to the Vice-Chancellor for approval.
- Any previously approved International travel will need to be resubmitted for consideration as essential travel.
In addition, the College will implement further restrictions on domestic travel and we ask staff to cancel or defer all non-essential interstate or intra-state/territory travel from Monday 16 March (e.g. travel from Adelaide to rural and remote campuses or vice versa).
I would ask staff to note the particular risks in rural and remote communities, and very high risk in remote Indigenous communities. Our College includes staff and students at a number of rural and remote sites in South Australia and the Northern Territory. COVID-19 poses specific risks for rural and remote communities, with more limited local health workforces, limited access to isolation facilities and ICU infrastructure. Many communities do not have access to dedicated testing facilities and supplies of personal protective equipment may be low.
International electives for CMPH students during March, April and May have been cancelled. Any CMPH students currently overseas on international electives have been called home and are in the process of returning to Australia.
The countries deemed a higher risk, and the nature of the restrictions on entry for countries deemed a moderate risk, are reviewed frequently and can change with no notice. Current restrictions are listed on the Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alert, and advice is changing rapidly so please use this as your trusted resource.
The College Executive team and University leadership appreciate that there is an increasing sense of uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19 on our community. It presents a huge interruption to so many aspects of our normal lives. Please continue to take care of yourself, your colleagues and those around you.
Vice President Executive Dean