The Morrison Government has welcomed the visitation code for residential aged care which prioritises access to loved ones while ensuring the protection of their health remains a priority.
The Aged Care Visitor Access Code, developed in conjunction with consumer peak bodies sets out a nationally consistent, principles-based approach to maintaining residents’ visitation and communication.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said the guidelines struck the important balance of ensuring the health and wellbeing of aged care residents and retaining important social connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the code provided an agreed approach and a clear path for providers, residents and their families during a difficult time.
“It lays out a clear definition of the responsibilities of providers and visitors as they navigate this extraordinary health crisis,” Minister Colbeck said.
While acknowledging the separate regulations in place between States and Territories, Minister Colbeck said aligning with the new code would provide clarity to the sector, residents and families.
“Ensuring the health and wellbeing of Senior Australians remains our number one responsibility,” he said.
Importantly, Minister Colbeck said the guidelines provided a suggested access resolution process should families feel they are being unfairly prevented from visiting their loved one.
Access to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is also available in circumstances where required.
“As restrictions start to ease, care needs to be taken by all in the interests of aged care residents, providers and visitors alike,” Minister Colbeck said.
The code, which adheres to advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, recommends:
- Visits should be only as frequent as required to support a resident, for a short duration and limited to a maximum of two people;
- A visit may occur in a resident’s room, designated internal areas, gardens or other designated areas;
- Longer periods of visitation can be agreed to with the provider and may be given priority for family or friends of residents with dementia;
- Where in-room or in-person visits cannot occur, a window visit may need to be offered; and
- Any visitor to an aged care facility is now required to have had a flu vaccination.
Additionally, the code outlines routine screening measures for all staff and visitors on entry. It underlines the need for one point of entry only, a short verbal questionnaire for visitors on arrival and a no touch temperature test.
Minister Colbeck urged all providers to consider the new frame work to ensure the response to the pandemic was proportionate and in the best interests of the residents.
The code specifies it is not reasonable to keep residents locked away from their families.
“Lockdowns of facilities may occur in the event of an outbreak in the building or the local community,” Minister Colbeck said.
Minister Colbeck praised the efforts across the sector, particularly those providers which had showcased innovative responses to the crisis.
“I have seen great examples of aged care providers who are using, sometimes quite innovative solutions, to facilitate communications between residents and their families,” Minister Colbeck said.
Measures such as phone or video calls must be accessible to all residents to enable more regular communications with family members, he said.
“The Aged Care Visitor Code is a clear example of what can be achieved when representatives across the sector come together for the benefit of those we are caring for,” Minister Colbeck said.
“It is a difficult time but these measures offer a much-needed united approach and another step in the right direction.”
The Aged Care Visitor Access Code can be found here.