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A day in the life of a Contact Tracer Officer

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ENFYS JAMES is a Contact Tracer Officer. She is part of a Team working within the Public Health Protection Team for Ceredigion County Council. Here you will get an insight into the day of a Contact Tracer Officer.

What were you doing before you started your work as a contact tracer?

I was born and brought up in Neuaddlwyd near Aberaeron, and attended the local school at Ciliau Parc, Ciliau Aeron, Aberaeron Secondary School and then went on to the College of Further of Education at Aberystwyth to undertake a Bilingual Secretarial/Short-Hand Course.

I have been an employee with the Local Authority since my appointment as Clerk Typist in the Public Health and Housing Department of Ceredigion District Council since September 1985. Having been re-appointed to be Divisional Administrative Officer and Personal Assistant to the Head of Lifestyle Services, in May 2018 I was appointed to the post of Community Connector for Porth y Gymuned. My role as Community Connector was to work on a 1:1 basis with individuals for up to 6 weeks to improve their social and emotional wellbeing, to promote independence and to reduce social exclusion, social isolation and loneliness.

How did you get into being a Contact Tracer?

When I read the job advert and job description for the Contact Tracing Officer posts on the Ceredigion County Council Job Vacancies page, I immediately thought to myself “I want to do this role”! I really fancied the job and a certainty that I wanted to be part of the COVID-19 team for Ceredigion County Council.

I have always had an involvement with Infectious Diseases. When I started in my first role as Clerk/Typist, I had to log details of every infectious disease in the County. During my role as Personal Assistant I followed up on Infectious Disease cases, contacting members of the public who had been identified as having diseases such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella. These telephone conversations were sensitive in nature, asking some personal questions and completing a detailed questionnaire on the Infectious Disease Database. After reading the Job Description I thought to myself the role of a Contact Tracer would be something very similar.

My interview for the Contact Tracing Officer post was through Zoom this was a totally new experience, I did dress up smartly as if I was going to walk into a room although it was a matter of sitting down at the kitchen table with just my laptop! At least nobody could see my legs shaking!

None of us will ever forget the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020. Having been appointed as a Contact Tracer, I have established that it is a critical role. It provides the opportunity to make a valuable contribution and ensuring the health and safety of the residents of Ceredigion.

Describe a typical day as a Contact Tracer.

The Contact Tracing Service operates from 8a.m. to 8p.m. seven days a week and I work on a shift basis.

It is the NHS All Wales Contact Tracing database I work on. Ceredigion County Council has its own site and the database will immediately highlight new positive cases in the county throughout the working day and during the night.

As a Contact Tracer I am allocated a case and work on it until it has been fully completed. I will immediately telephone the positive case hoping that I’ll get an answer. If there is no answer, and there is an option to leave a message I will do so. A text message will also be sent informing the case that Ceredigion County Council Track and Trace Service need to speak to them urgently and will be contacting them again later.

In the first instance when I do the initial call to a positive case, I will ask them to confirm their full name, address, date of birth, and the date of their test just to check that I am speaking to the person who has had a test. By the time I make contact with them they have usually received their result but on some occasions I am the first person to inform them that they are COVID-19 positive. The person I contact can speak in Welsh or English – whichever language they feel comfortable.

Once I have established that I am speaking to the correct person I will ask them to confirm which symptoms they have developed e.g. cough, fever, anosmia, etc and which dates did their symptoms start. Some positive cases have been asymptomatic and we therefore only have the date of the test to go by.

I will then need to establish their exposures and locations 48 hours prior to their symptoms starting and up until the day I make contact with them on the telephone. It is vital that I gather detailed information of their household contacts, their non-household contacts, have they been to work, have they visited any shops, pubs, café’s restaurants, have they been away on holiday, etc. I have to gather all contact names, dates of birth, addresses and telephone numbers of the people they have had close contact with. Some cases have had up to 40 individual contacts which means that I will have to upload details on 40 different persons. A detailed report is also typed up and added to the record and all records are kept in the strictest of confidence in line with GDPR guidelines.

I will give them advice on self-isolating, which means staying at home and not going out even for shopping. They are advised to limit contact with other people in their household and to keep at least 2 metres apart at all times. I also inform them how important it is to practice good hygiene, to wash their hands frequently, clean down touched surfaces such as kettles, taps, door handles etc. I always check and ask them how they think they will manage and cope with day to day tasks.
Once the list of exposures and locations is completed it will automatically be forwarded through to the Contact Tracing Advisors whose responsibility will be to telephone those exposures and give them advice regarding self-isolating.

In some instances the Contact Tracing Team have identified positive cases which have formed a cluster. For example the cases have been linked through social gatherings or at a workplace and the role of the Contact Tracer becomes more of a detective role at this stage. If we have received a dozen positive cases who have all attended the same social gathering we then need to identify the accurate background information from each individual which makes it interesting but challenging.

How do you work as a team?

The Contact Tracing Team is led by 3 Operational Leads who I report to on a daily basis.

The ability to work as a team is essential, it is important to communicate on a daily basis, to share the workload, and to share any views and ideas. The whole team have never met up in person only by communicating on Microsoft Teams Sites, e-mail or telephone. Throughout my career I have never experienced anything like it!

What do you enjoy about the work?

Since the day I commenced in my Clerk/Typist role in 1985 I have always enjoyed my work and have had so many different opportunities within the County Council. I enjoy everything to do with the role of being a Contact Tracer.

The most enjoyable aspect is that every case you deal with is different. When I do my first initial call to a positive case I find that it’s so important to be asking them as soon as you have confirmed their personal details how they are, and how they are feeling. Some positive cases have been very poorly whilst others have had milder symptoms. You will speak to a young person who has just commenced in University or an elderly retired person. Each case has such a variety of different issues, from a straightforward case up to a very complex where I have to escalate to my Managers.

It is true to say that in the short period of time when speaking to a positive case on the telephone, you develop a relationship. The majority of the cases I have dealt with have co-operated and have been willing to give me a detailed account of their daily activities. This includes who they have had close contact with and if they haven’t been able to provide me with the accurate details during the initial phone call they are more than willing for me to call them back to receive those details.

What is the most challenging aspect of the work?

The most challenging aspect of the work is to collate accurate information from each positive case, and to get each positive case to provide a truthful and trustworthy account of their contacts and locations.

I depend entirely on the information that I receive from the positive cases. It’s like completing a jigsaw – in order to have the full picture you need each piece in its place. As a Contact Tracer it is important that we trace all their contacts as soon as possible. Ultimately, this will ensure that we keep the cases of the coronavirus low in the county.

I have been accused of being a Scammer. This was a very lengthy and challenging call and I had to use tact and diplomacy to reassure them I was a Contact Tracer.

Dealing with positive cases who are limited in speaking the English language can be challenging. I have to make sure that I receive the accurate information from them and also make sure that they understand the advice and information I give them.
On occasions I have had cases who have not been informed that they have tested positive and I am the first person to be telling them. Some of these cases have been very upset on the telephone and I’ve had to comfort them and after my initial call I will make it a point of ringing them up again a day later just to check on their well-being.

This highlights how challenging it is and the importance of getting the positive cases to relay the correct information at all times.

What has the reaction been? What sort of questions people ask?

Every single case I have contacted have been most helpful and have provided the information that is required.

The positive cases with symptoms have accepted that they have to self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started and anyone in the household who do not display symptoms have to self-isolate for 14 days from when the first person in the household started having symptoms. Informing someone who has a busy lifestyle that they are not allowed to leave their home for 10 days can be challenging but they do accept the consequence and know how dangerous the COVID-19 pandemic is.

Why is your work important to the Council?

My role as a Contact Tracing Officer is critical in order to protect all residents and our community in Ceredigion by helping to disrupt community transmission of the virus and breaking the chain of transmission.

I take my role as a Contact Tracing Officer seriously and take pride in collating and relaying the accurate information I receive from our Ceredigion cases. If I feel that an urgent issue needs escalating I will inform my Operational Leads. Our Operational Leads report on a daily basis to the Leadership Group and if there are any issues in connection with the transmission of the virus that needs urgent attention within the County it will be dealt with immediately.

What is your main message to the people of Ceredigion?

This is a hard time for us all, this is a year like no other, and things will be different from now on. However, we’re all in this together. My main message for the people of Ceredigion is to self-isolate if they have any of the symptoms of the coronavirus. If they have a new persistent cough, loss or change of taste or smell, or a high temperature, stay at home. Further guidance can be read on the Council’s website www.ceredigion.gov.uk. Thank you for staying apart to play your part.

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Wales looking for third win in a row against England

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WALES have won their first two games in the Six Nations Championship and on Saturday, February 27, they put that record on the line against great rivals England.

Having already beaten Ireland and Scotland, the Triple Crown will be on the line for Wales, a feat they last achieved in 2019 when they won the Grand Slam.

That will be incentive enough for Wayne Pivac’s men but to do it against England will make it that little bit sweeter.

With France’s game against Scotland on Sunday in doubt, it will also give the home side a great chance to extend their lead at the top of the table.

Wales do not have any fresh injury concerns going into the England game and it will likely provide a selection headache for Pivac.

George North could be set to make his 100th appearance for Wales if he plays against England, and is currently second in the list of all-time try scorers for his home country.

England lost their opening game of the tournament against Scotland but got back to winning ways with a resounding 41-18 win over Italy.

The 2020 Six Nations and Autumn Cup Champions will be eager to rediscover their winning form which brought them that success but they will not find it easy against Wales.

What happened the last time England visited the Principality Stadium?
Wales last welcomed England to the Principality on February 23, 2019, and it was a game which saw Wales earn a 21-13 victory.

Cory Hill and Josh Adams scored Wales’ tries in that match while Dan Biggar and Gareth Anscombe added the rest of the points from the boot.

Tom Curry scored England’s only try in that match while Farrell had a 100% success rate with his kicks.

What happened when the sides met in 2020?

It was an absolute classic last year with England triumphing by 33 points to 30 at Twickenham.

Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi got the tries for England on that day while Owen Farrell had again had a 100% record with the boot.

Justin Tipuric bagged two tries for Wales while Dan Biggar scored their other as the men in red came up short on this occasion.

Of course, the last two meetings between the two sides were played in front of capacity crowds but that will not be a factor this time around, owing to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Could that be a factor in the game or will both sides treat us to an excellent display of rugby?

After the England game, Wales travel to Italy on Saturday, March 13, while England will host France on the same day.

A win for either side this weekend will be crucial; a win for Wales and it sets them up for the Grand Slam while a win for England will reignite their hopes of retaining the Six Nations Championship.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 16:45 and can be seen on S4C as well as the BBC.

ENGLAND
Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, George Martin, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

WALES
Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

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COVID-19 tests being encouraged for wider range of symptoms

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PEOPLE living in Ceredigion are being encouraged to have a free COVID-19 test if they have a wider range of symptoms.

Previously, only those with either a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell, were advised to seek a test. The health board is now also encouraging people to have a test if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known COVID-19 case
  • Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test

The change aims to find hidden COVID-19 cases in our communities and drive down the numbers of onward transmissions.

Identifying infections, which could otherwise go undetected, is particularly important as new variants of the virus emerge. The more tests carried out, the easier it will be to spot early clusters of cases and possible virus mutations. This will help with easing restrictions in the future.

The new testing regime will initially run for at least 28 days and will then be reviewed. Swansea Bay University Health Board is also expanding its offer of testing in this way.

Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies and Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Overall, we are seeing a positive picture across the three counties and there has been a steady fall in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“Also, the demand for tests has come down considerably since the end of 2020, so we have capacity to expand the offer of testing to those with a wider range of symptoms.

“We know the wider group of symptoms do occur in COVID-19 but are not reported as often as the ‘classic three’ symptoms. With the very low rates of flu circulating at the moment, it is more likely that wider flu-like symptoms are due to COVID-19.

“Our aim is to find as many COVID-19 cases as possible so we can prevent the virus being passed on to others. We want to do everything we can to help bring the pandemic to a close as fast as possible and help restrictions to be lifted.”

If you have any of the symptoms outlined above, please stay at home and get a test by booking online via the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or ringing 119.

As these are national contacts, you may automatically be asked about the ‘classic three’ symptoms. However, to book your test simply choose either one of these options: “You have been asked to take a test by your local council” or “You are part of a government pilot project”.

Once you have had your test, you must continue to self-isolate until you receive your result, which will usually be within 24 hours of the test. If your result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the date your symptoms started. You will also be contacted by the local Tracing Team.

If your result is negative, you can end your self-isolation, when you feel well enough to do so.

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Dyfed-Powys Police lead chaplain, Reverend Tom Evans, to retire after “greatest nine years of working life”

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REVEREND Tom Evans (just Tom to officers and staff) is a bit of a legend in Dyfed-Powys Police, he has given his time freely and passionately to serve as the lead force chaplain for the past nine years – supporting officers and staff at the worst times of their lives and in the most challenging circumstances, but also cheering them on and celebrating with them at the best of times.

He’s been there for it all, and everyone knew that he was available 24/7, 365 days a year – astonishing dedication considering it was a volunteer role. In 2019, he clocked up a 1,000 hours volunteering, and this was pretty typical for him annually. He’s had a few desperate late night calls in this time, and stayed up talking until the early hours when the person on the other end of the phone needed it, and also taken calls whilst he and his wife Marilyn were holidaying abroad. But that’s the essence of Tom, nothing is ever too much trouble for him, and he genuinely and deeply cares about each and every person in the organisation.

He can be credited with ensuring that the multi faith Chaplaincy is now a part of the fabric of the organisation. He leads a team of 19 remarkable chaplains, which includes an Imam, volunteering throughout the force area – and he is quick to point out that it is the collective effort of them all that has guaranteed their ongoing success.

Commenting on his decision to retire, he said: “All things considered, I think it’s the appropriate time to leave, however sad I am to do so. At my age I think it is common sense. I retired from full time employment in 2008 – after an interesting and rewarding career. I was in the ministry first, moved onto world development matters with Christian Aid, then moved to media where I became a radio producer and presenter of programmes focusing on religion, and finally worked as a University lecturer. But volunteering as a Police chaplain has been a tremendous experience – one I wouldn’t have missed for the world, it’s been an absolute privilege. And I can honestly say it’s been the greatest nine years of my working life. The camaraderie and friendships I found when I joined the family community that is Dyfed-Powys Police will stay with me forever – I’ve met extraordinary people who have changed my life.”

The role has changed a lot over the nine years, and the chaplains are very much an important part of the operational response of the force. But he had to work hard at the beginning to gain the trust of officers and staff, who may have been a little cynical and wary of taking him into their confidence. He always resisted having an office, as he felt it was important for him to be in the company of and around officers and staff so that they could get to know him, and have plenty of opportunities to start informal conversations on the ground. Part of his (and the team’s) success is the fact that he’s always provided a non- judgemental, listening ear to all, whether they have faith or no faith, and speaks to everyone in a language they can understand.

Tom has enjoyed the varied nature of the role, and it has been far broader than just supporting staff in their day to day working life. He has been asked to conduct funeral services for staff and their loved ones, he’s married a few couples, blessed wedding rings, visited staff in hospital, done home visits, sat and provided comfort to some who were gravely ill and anything in between. He’s been in the thick of people’s highs and lows – be they work related or in their personal lives. Retired staff have also been known to reach out to him.

He has also supported officers and staff through some of the most tragic cases the force has had to deal with – notably the abduction and murder of April Jones (where he stayed up in the Machynlleth area for two weeks) and the fire at a farmhouse in Llangammarch Wells where a father and his five children lost their lives. His work on both earned him a Chief Constable Commendation and a Certificate of Appreciation respectively. He also won the accolade of Volunteer of the Year in the force awards in 2017. And although he was moved and humbled by these awards, he’s clear that it’s the people he’s helped through their sorrow and challenges that mean the most to him, and knowing he’s made a difference to them is recognition enough.

Tom is seen as a hero to many teams and individuals – and this was particularly true of the Disaster Victim Identification Team deployed to the tragic Llangammarch Wells fire.

PC 154 Thomas Draycott was part of the team, and said: “Tom is just one of those special people who puts people instantly at ease.  You can feel his genuine interest in people and you as a person whenever or wherever you speak to him.  He made numerous visits to our DVI team working on the protracted Llangammarch Wells fire recovery and it was clear that his visits were solely for the purpose of supporting us personally. With the weeks of long hours away from home, very difficult working conditions, and the extreme weather conditions, Tom’s positivity and warmth meant the world and he quickly became a bit of a hero within the team.  Each of his visits gave the team a much needed lift.  Even simple things like his amazing ability to remember everyone’s name adds to his personal touch. He will be sorely missed.”

At the conclusion of the recovery at the scene, Tom was humbled to be asked by the weary officers to conduct a service of closure and memorial inside the ruins – a very moving service that he will never forget, and he recalls there wasn’t a dry eye there.

Chaplaincy has not only been nurtured by Tom within Dyfed-Powys Police, but he was also central in introducing it to the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust. As an emergency service, they’d seen the benefits the Chaplaincy brought to staff in the police, and wanted the same service to be available for the wellbeing of their staff. Following discussions, Tom offered to coordinate and facilitate this for the Trust to get them started, and by January 2020 a volunteer chaplain was in post. The timing was opportune, considering the incredible pressure that was to be placed on the emergency service and its staff a short time later because of the pandemic.

The development of the Chaplaincy and ensuring its longevity has been a priority for Tom, demonstrated by his determination to secure a Continuous Professional Development Programme in Chaplaincy Studies with the University of Wales Trinity St David. The programme gives all blue light chaplains UK wide an opportunity to study for a Post- Graduate Certificate, Diploma and ultimately a Masters Degree in Chaplaincy Studies.

Chief Constable Mark Collins said: “We value all volunteers at Dyfed-Powys Police and can’t thank them enough for the support they provide us with. But I think I’m among many of my colleagues when I say Tom really stands out. He is part of a team that do outstanding work – and he has nurtured the Chaplaincy to the success it is today. He will be a hard act to follow, and his commitment to developing it and ensuring its future success is clearly demonstrated in his work on introducing the diploma in Chaplaincy studies.

“Our officers and staff see some truly harrowing and tragic events, and when people really need somebody to listen to them at times when they are really struggling, Tom has always been there, day or night. He has become a bit of a father figure for Dyfed-Powys Police and truly enriches the wellbeing of the force. He has put his heart and soul into the role. The workforce are always telling me he’s one of the nicest, most genuine and caring people they’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and the real difference he has made to their lives – inside and outside of work. We are all very sad to see him go.”

Tom Evans being presented with his award

Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn added: “Tom Evans has been an exceptional volunteer for the Force over the last ten years or so.  As chaplain, he has always been there for us through some challenging and difficult times; day and night. He has provided exceptional support and pastoral care to officers and staff and the wider policing community at times of difficulty and distress.

“I have been struck, but not at all surprised, at the huge amount of good wishes that have been sent to Tom since he announced his decision to retire. I want to add my own tribute to the way he has undertaken his duties and to note that he has gone well above and beyond what would have been expected.

“He will be very much missed by me and staff from my office and the extended policing family. I wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement.”

The Police Federation and Unison representatives also work closely with the Chaplains and recognise the significant role they can play in the welfare of officers and staff. Chair of the Dyfed-Powys Police Federation, Chief Inspector Gareth Jones said: “I have known Tom for several years, both during my time in Ceredigion and also since taking over as the Federation Chair. I have had the pleasure of knowing him professionally as well as personally and have always found him to be extremely approachable, caring and always willing to listen.

“I have witnessed first-hand the support he has provided to officers and staff who have experienced ill-health, bereavement or work and personal related issues. He leaves a massive void in the force chaplaincy and will be greatly missed across the force. I wish him and Marilyn all the very best for the future.”

Unison Branch Secretary Karen Phillips and Brach Chair Phil Williams have expressed their sincere gratitude to Tom for his unwavering support to their members in their times of need, and indeed the support he has given them personally in their roles to help their members.

Reflecting, Tom concluded: “Police officers and staff are a remarkable group of people. They experience traumatic and life changing events regularly. Some people get the impression that they are hard like anthracite. But I always tell people to look beyond the uniform, inside the uniform is a human being, full of emotions, like you or I. There have been times when officers have said to me that were it not for the support they received from the Chaplaincy, they would have left the police. And it is those extraordinary people, who’ve found the strength and commitment to carry on serving their communities, that have made my role as chaplain so rewarding.”

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