Bellingen Shire Pandemic Working Group members Kerry Pearse (Neighbourhood Care Network Co-ordinator) and Michelle McFadyen (Deputy General Manager Bellingen Shire Council). Photo: Matt Deans
Bellingen Shire Pandemic Working Group members Kerry Pearse (Neighbourhood Care Network Co-ordinator) and Michelle McFadyen (Deputy General Manager Bellingen Shire Council). Photo: Matt Deans

World-class Covid response plays out in our own backyard

IN what's believed to be a world-first a proactive community has jumped into action to create their own pandemic response group.

With an established network of service providers and volunteers already well-versed in jumping into action in times of crisis the Bellingen community was on the front foot as coronavirus inevitably made its way to the region.

The Bellingen Shire coronavirus Pandemic Response Group draws from a wide cross section of the community from healthcare workers through to business people.

Facilitated by Bellingen Shire Council the group is focusing its efforts on the key areas of clinical support, community preparedness and resilience, business support and maintenance of Council's essential community services.

Michelle McFadyen, Deputy General Manager Corporate and Community with Bellingen Shire Council explains how the group swung into action.

"Our community and council recognised early that we needed to prepare for a response to the Pandemic. We all got together and over the past weeks we've achieved some amazing things - together as a community".

Members of the Bellingen Shire Pandemic Working Group L- R - Jill Haynes (Bellingen Shire Council); Clare Danby (volunteer), Myola Suffolk (Bello Youth Hub), Dean Besley (facilitator Bellingen Shire Pandemic Working Group - Bellingen Shire Council), Kerry Pearse (Neighbourhood Care Network Co-ordinator), Michelle McFadyen (Deputy General Manager Bellingen Shire Council), Lily Isobella (Volunteer)
Members of the Bellingen Shire Pandemic Working Group L- R - Jill Haynes (Bellingen Shire Council); Clare Danby (volunteer), Myola Suffolk (Bello Youth Hub), Dean Besley (facilitator Bellingen Shire Pandemic Working Group - Bellingen Shire Council), Kerry Pearse (Neighbourhood Care Network Co-ordinator), Michelle McFadyen (Deputy General Manager Bellingen Shire Council), Lily Isobella (Volunteer)

One unique aspect of the Pandemic Response Group has been the creation of a Neighbourhood Care Network. It is designed to help people isolated or needing help during the pandemic.

"It was actually modelled on what they were doing in the UK," Ms McFadyen said.

"We spoke to our contacts there and said 'what would you be doing now, if you went back seven days?' and they said three key things: we would have shut down earlier; we would have collected more data earlier"; and we would have established community networks earlier."

Volunteers are being asked to sign up and from these a number of 'street co-ordinators' appointed to make sure the whole community stays connected.

Network co-ordinator Kerry Pearse says there are already close to 90 people registered as street co-ordinators.

She estimates already 70 per cent of households in the Shire are already covered by the care network.

"Over decades people in the Bellingen Shire have become really experienced at pulling together over the decades as far as natural disasters like floods and fires go."

 

Dr Olivia and Derek Bell with David Cheney at the Bellingen Community Covid-19 clinic where patients drive in for testing.
Dr Olivia and Derek Bell with David Cheney at the Bellingen Community Covid-19 clinic where patients drive in for testing. Picture: Matt Deans

Another key element of the Bellingen Shire coronavirus Pandemic Response Group is the Clinical Action Group which consists of representatives from the medical and health profession within the Shire. Its primary objective was to set up a COVID-19 testing clinic (see the front page story) despite no surety of funding from NSW Health.

The pandemic response group also includes a Business Support Network and Adaptation Action Group. It consists of representatives of the Bellingen, Urunga-Mylestom and Dorrigo Chambers of Commerce.

Bellingen Shire Council has created its own internal Pandemic Response Working Group.

For more information about the initiative go to www.bellingen.nsw.gov.au.