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Meet the frontline: Alison, Head of Contact Tracing Teams

Meet the frontline: Alison, Head of Contact Tracing Teams

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Meet the frontline: Alison, Head of Contact Tracing Teams


Behind-the-scenes, the corona virus contact tracing team is tracking the spread of the disease and help keep islanders safe.

They work seven-days-a-week to identify and alert individuals who have come into contact with infected islanders.

As individuals across Jersey continue to work behind the scenes to combat the pandemic, this month's online-only edition of CONNECT magazine is introducing readers to some of the faces working on the frontline.

In a series of interviews called ‘Meet the frontline’, Express has asked the same questions to the different ‘frontliners’ about their experiences in the midst of this health crisis, including a critical care manager, a biomedical scientist and the Head of Information Security

Here, GHE Contact Tracing team member Alison de Bourcier, shares her experiences...  

Describe a 'typical' day for you, dealing with covid-19...

My team carry out the contact tracing of positive cases. For resilience, we are spread over multiple locations.

The first part of the day is catching up on events from the day before. I then make contact with the team checking in and posting any technical updates. The landscape changes rapidly!

The lab sends us the positive results which I then input into our Covid CRM. We use this to manage all of our interactions with islanders in respect of the Covid response. At this point my amazing staff pick up these cases and call the positive patient to advise them of their test result which is where their hard work really begins!

This is more than just working out who the positive patient has been in direct contact with. They have such compassion, taking the time to explain the results, allay any fears, assess their individual concerns, answer questions, assess the needs of other householders, capture essential information including any symptoms, medical history, employment and any ongoing welfare needs.

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Pictured: The Contact Tracing team go above simply informing islanders they have been in contact with an infected individual. 

Following the assessment of their contact history, the officer then engages their support officers to call these direct contacts, explain why they have been identified, get them into self-isolation, and assess any symptoms, welfare and concerns. The cycle then starts all over again!

In-between cases, staff carry out periodic welfare calls. It is important to check in with islanders to see how they are doing from a physical, mental and practical perspective.

There isn’t always a pattern to when I receive positive results and of course I don’t have any expectations on the numbers of positives that will come in. I just know that my staff work meticulously and tirelessly and treat every day as it comes. The wider team also provides advice and guidance to those struggling to follow Government advice, whether a member of the public or a business.

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Pictured: Alison provides daily reports that help guide policy decisions. 

In most cases, through advice and further guidance the appropriate actions are observed. Of course in-between all of this I deal with any number of other issues, but my job is primarily to support the valuable work of the team and be prepared to flex at any time to support the island's strategic and operational response to this global emergency.

I finish each day in providing the appropriate reports and insights which feed into informing current and future policy decisions.  

What would you like more / less of?

Without a doubt, like all of us, fewer infections, fewer Covid related deaths and many more recoveries.

When contact tracing you also want as many new positive cases to be those you have previously identified as direct contacts and already put into self-isolation rather than new clusters.

What’s been your abiding memory / image / event of the pandemic so far? 

My abiding memory was in the early days when our first positives had travelled back into the island and the flurry of activity in obtaining the flight manifests and airplane layouts to contact those passengers who had been in close proximity.

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Pictured: Alison remembers the 'flurry of activity' when the team had to trace individuals on a flight with positive cases. 

Also the feeling when inevitably you recognised the names on those lists, including friends and family members. That makes it very real.

How do you keep going when work gets tough?

My team! There are all such amazing, dedicated, professional individuals who come together to rise to this huge challenge. We had to change to a seven day operation almost overnight, further expanding the team bringing in other colleagues from within the wider GHE Regulation directorate.

All of the foundation work bringing GHE Regulation together really paid off. And of course, all our families who have allowed us to prioritise this work over and above almost everything else. We have now transitioned into a more sustainable pace. As they say, this is a marathon not a sprint, so like everyone else, make the most of every rest day. You can only do your very best.

What do you hope this crisis will change?

I think a more flexible approach to work, for example losing the formality of the traditional ‘weekend,’ and new ways of working.

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