Update on COVID-19 screening and testing
The Australian Government is continuing to support COVID-19 screening and testing at residential aged care facilities (RACFs).
Advice on the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) and PCR testing is provided below.
COVID-19 screening and surveillance testing
The Australian Government is continuing to support COVID-19 surveillance testing at RACFs through the distribution of RATs. RATs should be used to conduct screening of residents, visitors and staff.
If you are not receiving regular RAT deliveries or have insufficient supply, please contact the case management team in your jurisdiction:
- Australian Capital Territory: ACTCOVIDcasemanagement@health.gov.au
- New South Wales: NSWCOVIDcasemanagement@health.gov.au
- Northern Territory: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Queensland: QLDCovidCaseManagement@health.gov.au
- South Australia: SA.COVIDSupport@health.gov.au
- Tasmania and Victoria: VICTASCaseManagement@health.gov.au
- Western Australia: WA.COVIDsupport@health.gov.au.
If a RACF requests COVID-19 PCR testing directly from a pathology provider for surveillance purposes only, the RACF will be charged for the test.
Practitioner requested testing for clinical management of a patient
Under usual Medicare arrangements, medical practitioners and nurse practitioners continue to have the ability to directly request a COVID-19 PCR test from a pathology provider to assist with the clinical management of their patient.
Such requests may be made at any time and issued to the treating practitioner’s chosen pathology provider. This requires the treating practitioner (e.g. GP) to make a Medicare‑eligible pathology request for a COVID-19 PCR test for a patient in their care.
COVID-19 PCR testing following diagnosed COVID-19 case
A positive result from a RAT test is sufficient to diagnose COVID-19, and will trigger the requirement to report the case to the Australian Government Department of Health.
Following a positive RAT or PCR test result, the Government also provides additional access to COVID-19 PCR laboratory testing to assist RACFs manage outbreaks.
When at least one COVID-19 positive resident and/or two or more COVID-19 positive staff results from a RAT or PCR test, additional COVID-19 PCR laboratory testing may be requested.
State and Territory Public Health Units and RACFs are advised to contact the case management team in their jurisdiction to request COVID-19 PCR laboratory testing at your facility.
In these circumstances, the Australian Government Department of Health will arrange for COVID-19 PCR laboratory testing of staff and residents to confirm the presence and extent of COVID-19 to support RACF outbreak management activities.
The contracted pathology provider, Sonic Healthcare, ensures pathology collection staff attending RACFs for testing maintain up to date COVID-19 vaccination status as per local state and territory aged care and workplace requirements.