Over recent days there has been a small increase in the number of locally acquired COVID-19 cases in NSW that are not connected to existing outbreaks. While the cases are not in aged care, it highlights the virus is still present in the community and the need for providers to continue their vigilance around infection prevention and control.
The Department would like to remind providers to refer to the national guidelines from the Communicable Disease Network Australia (CDNA) on preparing for and preventing an outbreak of COVID-19 in residential aged care facilities. It is critical that providers and facilities are assessing their preparedness on a regular basis.
We also remind providers that while every effort needs to be made by facilities and staff to protect residents from COVID-19, isolation should not be the sole solution to keeping COVID-19 out of facilities.
We have all seen the detrimental effects extended isolation is having on residents. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Special Report last week highlighted the impact it has on mental health and physical decline in older Australians.
It is a good time to re-familiarise yourself with the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19, to ensure you are facilitating residents’ communication with family, friends and services. The safety and wellbeing of residents should be at the core of what we are doing. It is not acceptable to use lockdown as the main fix for COVID.
Providers are also reminded to ensure their staff have completed COVID-19 infection control training. Additional training modules, specifically designed for aged care workers are also available.
As part of the funding under the 2020-21 Federal Budget COVID-19 pandemic response, around 2,700 residential facilities will receive payments in October 2020 to assist with the additional costs of preparing for and responding to COVID-19.
This includes support for the engagement of an Infection Prevention and Control lead in each facility. Additional guidance in relation to this requirement will be made available to the sector in the near future.