COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 cases began to trend downwards in Broken Hill over the past three weeks; however, numbers remain in the hundreds and the local community are reminded to stay vigilant about personal hygiene and social distancing.

Umit Agis, the Chief Executive of the Far West Local Health District (FW LHS), explained he would like to see more children between the ages of 5 and 11 vaccinated.

Southern Cross Care reported that St Anne’s nursing home came out of lockdown and Aruma Lodge is expected to remain in lockdown for at least another two weeks.

The NSW Government recognised the pressure on nurses throughout the pandemic and announced they would be recruiting approximately 10,000 new health staff across NSW.

The Australian College of Nursing reported that they welcomed the NSW Government’s $3000 bonus for public sector frontline health workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic but argued it should be tax-free.

Tim Loh, the Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), reminded people that it’s tax time, and they anticipate COVID-19 will have an impact on people’s income and deductions.

Broken Hill Aged Care COVID-19 Update

Karen Kemp from Southern Cross Care said ADF personnel and Commonwealth Surge Force arrived to alleviate the pressure at Aruma Lodge.

“Staff shortages across all our facilities made it difficult to manage the outbreak, so we requested help from the Commonwealth,” Ms Kemp said.

St Anne’s nursing home is now out of lockdown as all residents have recovered and ADF personnel deployed there have returned home.

St Annes is allowing visitors; however, they must follow current government guidelines when visiting.

Meanwhile, at Aruma Lodge, 33 residents tested positive for COVID-19, and 19 have recovered.

Because there are still 14 active cases, the Lodge will remain in lockdown for at least another two weeks.

The Commonwealth provided four ADF personnel and three enrolled nurses from the Commonwealth surge workforce to help Southern Cross Care at Aruma Lodge.

The ADF personnel monitored personal protective equipment stocks, delivered meals to residents’ rooms, sat and talked with residents in isolation and kept residents occupied with activities so that the nurses could continue their work at Aruma Lodge.

“Southern Cross Care staff are forever grateful for these personnel to come out here to assist us,” Ms Kemp said.

The third Broken Hill Sea Scouts Cub group wrote letters to the residents in lockdown to cheer up residents while they were in lockdown.

The residents were very appreciative of the letters and would like the Cub group to know that the letters made them smile.

FW LHD Local Health COVID-19 Update

Umit Agis, Chief Executive, FW LHD, said the number of cases is trending downward.

Three weeks ago, case numbers were above 400, whereas there were 251 positive cases last week, said Mr Agis.

The region has been facing significant staffing challenges throughout the pandemic and has recruited 20 new nurses to relieve some of those immediate challenges.

Brad Hazzard, NSW Health Minister, said the NSW Government is investing $4.5 billion into the health sector over the next four years to relieve pressure on existing staff and ensure appropriate health staffing levels.

NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet, announced that 10,148 full-time equivalent staff would be recruited to hospitals and health services across the state over the next four years, with 7674 recruited in the first year.

Mr Agis said this is a boost for the Far West District, and he will keep the community updated about the number of staff recruits the Far West might receive when he knows more.

 $3000 bonus for public sector frontline workers

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) welcomes the NSW Government’s $3000 bonus to public sector health care professionals for their sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am pleased to see NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announce frontline health workers will receive a $3000 bonus to recognise the extensive sacrifices we have made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” ACN Acting CEO Yvonne Mckinlay said.

The ACN argue that the bonus should be tax-free and adopted by every jurisdiction in the country.

“The NSW announcement is the first step, but it fails to sufficiently recognise how much our profession has endured throughout the pandemic,” Ms Mckinlay said.

The ACN is the national voice of the nursing profession and hear stories from members and nurses explaining how the third winter of COVID-19 is placing pressure on staff and hospitals, said Ms Mckinlay.

Ms Shaye Candish, Acting General Secretary, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), wants greater clarity about who will receive the bonus payment.

“There’s also no clarity if casual nursing staff or those on temporary contracts will receive this payment, many of who worked beyond full-time hours in this pandemic to help their workplaces and communities. It would be deplorable if these hardworking nurses and midwives were arbitrarily excluded,” Ms Candish said.

Tax time and COVID-19

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) reminded taxpayers they need to be aware of changes such as receiving an income support payment and what can be claimed as a work-related expense.

Taxpayers who paid for a COVID-19 test for work-related purposes can now claim a deduction for the test from 1 July 2021.

They must have a record showing they paid for the test.

Items purchased to protect against the risk of illness while performing work duties may also be claimed if a record demonstrates the purchase.

“If you’re spending your working day in close proximity to customers and at risk of contracting COVID-19, you may be able to claim a deduction for protective items such as gloves, face masks, or sanitiser. This will be most common in industries such as retail, cleaning and hospitality,” Mr Loh said.

The COVID-19 disaster payment (delivered through Services Australia) is not taxable and does not need to be included in tax returns.

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is taxable and should be included as part of your annual income.

Taxpayers are responsible for reporting these amounts as they won’t be pre-filled in the electronic returns.

A quick guide to the tax treatment of the various COVID-19 payments is available on the ATO website.

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