The Morrison Government has accepted all 38 recommendations from a review into COVID-19 outbreaks in residential aged care facilities.
The Independent Review of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities, will underpin continued improvements as the Government and aged care sector prioritise the health and wellbeing of senior Australians in care.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck said the review was an important blueprint as we navigate the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
“It has been an extremely challenging time for all of us, but particularly senior and vulnerable Australians and those who care for them,” Minister Hunt said.
“The review’s 38 recommendations will help aged care facility administrators better prepare for and respond to future COVID-19 outbreaks and will assist the Government in monitoring and evaluating these measures.”
Minister Colbeck said the review was already guiding measures for the protection of aged care residents and workers in the current New South Wales, Victoria and ACT outbreaks.
“Importantly, the findings show that while community transmission is the biggest predictor of COVID‑19 outbreaks in aged care settings, effective leadership at all levels is the most critical factor in defending against the virus,” Minister Colbeck said.
He said the information in the report will also provide input and guidance into the principals required as we move towards living with COVID-19 in residential aged care.
The report outlines nine key lines of defence to minimise risk of COVID-19 outbreaks:
- Built environment and infrastructure;
- Clinical care;
- Effective interagency communication;
- Emergency response;
- Infection prevention and control;
- Leadership, management and governance;
- Planning and preparation;
- Preventing social isolation; and
- Workforce and staff mental health.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and its Aged Care Advisory Group have considered the recommendations.
Minister Hunt said the Government will continue to adapt the way it prepares for and responds to an outbreak, based on what has been learned.
“This will be done in collaboration with the aged care sector, state and territory governments and health authorities,” Minister Hunt said.
“It will also be important that, as the community transitions to living with COVID, we continue with critical strategies such as vaccinations and testing, so that aged care residents and staff are protected.”
Minister Colbeck said since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Morrison Government has committed over $2.1 billion in funding for aged care COVID support.
“We have listened to the experiences and stories of those living, working and caring in the aged care sector throughout the pandemic,” Minister Colbeck said. “We are committed to improving our preparation for and response to outbreaks, and better supporting our most vulnerable Australians.”
The Ministers thanked the authors of the review and the residents, families, friends, carers, providers and workers who contributed to this and the previous four independent reviews.
The full report can be found here.
Please note that the release of the report may be confronting for anyone affected by the impact of the pandemic on Australia’s aged care sector. The following support is available:
- The Older Persons Advocacy Network can be reached on 1800 700 600
- The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement can be reached on 1800 22 22 00
- The Essential Network for health professionals– a website and mobile app by the Black Dog Institute available at blackdoginstitute.org.au/ten or via the Google Play and Apple Store
- Smiling Mind – a mobile application with practical tools to support good mental health during challenging times, available via the Google Play and Apple Store.
Aged care workers can also access mental health support available to all Australians including:
- Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service can be reached on 1800 512 348 or at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au.
- Lifeline can be reached on 13 11 14
- Head to Health provides access to free and low cost digital and phone mental health services and supports, available at headtohealth.gov.au