27 December 2021

NSW Health has revised its approach to isolation guidelines for healthcare staff exposed to COVID-19 in the community or the workplace.

Healthcare workers essential to service delivery, who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case in the household will now be able to leave isolation and safely return to work after seven days. Previously these staff were excluded from the workplace for 14 days due to the requirement for close contacts to avoid high risk settings, such as hospitals, for a further seven days.

Before returning to work, staff will be required to have a negative PCR test on day six and to follow an approved risk assessment plan.

The risk assessment plan requires daily COVID-19 rapid antigen testing, COVID-safe protocols in the workplace and appropriate and effective use of personal protective equipment, including masks at all times while at work.

Other changes to reduce the number of days healthcare workers are excluded from the workplace include:

  • those who are exposed in the community by a friend or family member in a social setting will also be able to return to work following a negative PCR test on day two; and
  • those exposed in the workplace will have their isolation and testing requirements determined by a workplace risk assessment.

Deputy Secretary Nigel Lyons said the changes ensure safety for healthcare workers and patients while maintaining capacity within the health system.

"Healthcare workers are the most vital workers needed in a pandemic, and the safety of staff working at NSW Health is of the utmost importance," Dr Lyons said.

"These changes are possible because healthcare workers are required to be vaccinated, many have recently received booster doses, they are trained in infection control practices, they wear PPE in the workplace, and they have access to rapid testing."

NSW Health has the largest and most skilled health workforce in the country with more than 140,000 dedicated staff. Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in NSW, approximately 2,000 Healthcare workers are furloughed. These changes will result in a substantial number of staff being back to work within a week.

All Local Health Districts have well developed workforce surge and demand management plans in place, and our networked hospital system ensures patients can be transferred or redirected to other hospitals where necessary, including private hospitals.

The safety of staff working at NSW Health is of the utmost importance. Accordingly, the NSW Government has invested heavily in equipment, materials and training to improve infection prevention and control to ensure appropriate protection for healthcare staff, patients and visitors.

The revised Health Care Worker COVID-19 Exposure Risk Assessment Matrix will be applied to staff who are exposed to COVID-19 in a NSW health care facility.