Aged care outbreaks decline as efforts focus on prevention and recovery

As COVID-19 case numbers in aged care continue to fall in Victoria in line with the fall in community transmission, the Response Centre is shifting gear to focus on prevention and recovery, including returning residents to their homes, whilst continuing to support facilities with existing outbreaks.

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General public

Current situation

The number of active cases in aged care peaked at 2075 on 16 August 2020. Active cases have now dropped to less than a sixth of that to 328 today, with 24 new aged care cases reported.

Looking at the monthly trend in the number of aged care facilities with outbreaks, September is also experiencing a significant drop. In May 2020 there were 6 facilities with outbreaks, in June there were 5. July was the highest with 95 outbreaks, and the Response Centre became operational on 27 July. August had 58 outbreaks and September has had 9 to date.

Tomorrow will also mark 3 weeks since the number of ‘Category 1’ facilities fell to zero from a high of 13 in early August. At that time there were 119 facilities on the Response Centre’s ‘Category 2’ list of facilities at risk. Category 2 has had less than 3 facilities on it for more than a week now.

The number of facilities with active outbreaks has almost halved – with 129 facilities experiencing outbreaks simultaneously at its peak, to 67 currently.

Victorian Aged Care Response Centre Executive Officer, Joe Buffone said, “With the acute phase of the emergency response now passing, it’s appropriate to focus on the recovery phase, including the return of residents to their homes, and continuing prevention activities to strengthen the first line of defence against the virus.”

Focus on recovery

As the Response Centre enters its ninth week of operations, the centre is moving into the recovery phase of the COVID-19 emergency, including embedding stronger prevention and infection control measures in facilities.

Deployed by the Response Centre, the Australian Defence Force has now completed more than 80% of its scheduled in-person prevention visits across the State by a medic-led team. The visits focus on practical solutions for infection control, assessing existing preparedness for COVID-19, and boosting infection and prevention control measures, including staff PPE training.

By the end of this week, visits will have occurred in all 79 Local Government Areas. To date more than 500 visits have been completed including:

  • Metropolitan Melbourne – 315 of 328 scheduled visits complete.
  • Regional Victoria – 187 of 197 scheduled visits complete.
  • Outer Regional Victoria – 120 visits by the end of the week.

If a facility needs further capability, the Response Centre organises an additional onsite visit from a relevant expert. More than 80 facilities have been part of this program with visits from groups such as such as AUSMAT, Epworth Perioperative nurses, Infection Prevention Control Outbreak Nursing Teams from DHHS or public health services.

Almost 550 aged care facility staff have now received PPE training from the Response Centre. As part of the training package, two champions have been identified at each facility for additional education, so they can train their colleagues directly and provide a sustainable model for PPE training into the future.

Oversight of existing outbreaks

In response to the outbreak in community transmission in Casey, the Response Centre rapidly scheduled 10 prevention visits to be completed as a priority for all aged care facilities in the region; focusing on providing immediate feedback to facility management on key actions they need to undertake to respond to an outbreak should it occur.

The Response Centre is working closely with DHHS intelligence to identify areas in the community that are experiencing community transition, such as Casey, to provide a targeted response to any outbreak. This work will continue over the coming months to ensure rapid response can be delivered as Victoria opens up.

“The Response Centre will continue to provide emergency surge workforce, rapid response teams and prevention support teams,” said Joe Buffone.

Residents returning to homes

The Response Centre is currently supporting 11 aged care facilities to progressively transfer residents back to their homes.

“From day one the response centre has focused on the dignity and care of residents, and the safety of staff and this continues through the recovery phase,” said Joe Buffone.

“The Response Centre continues to work in partnership with the Victorian Government, health services, private hospitals and industry, to unify the effort and keep aged care residents safe,” said Joe Buffone.

“This has been a huge undertaking across the aged care sector, and we thank all of the aged care staff on the frontline – nurses, doctors, caterers, cleaners, and many more. We are deeply appreciative for all of the work done to protect our most vulnerable seniors,” he said.


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