In response to the increase in number of COVID-19 cases in New South Wales, aged care providers are reminded to regularly visit the NSW Health website for updated advice and directions. Advice is being updated regularly including visitation arrangements. At the time of writing, the directions stated:
Until at least 11.59pm on Wednesday 23 December 2020:
- all residential aged care facilities across NSW must exclude visitors. Visitors performing essential caring functions may be exempted. Where there are exceptional circumstances (for example, a dying relative), seek advice from your local NSW Health public health unit on 1300 066 055
- all staff and exempted visitors must wear a surgical mask while in a residential aged care facility.
NSW public orders and guidance from the Chief Health Officer must be followed and applied across the state at this point in time. This means that the current NSW Health advice supersedes national guidance in the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Escalation Tiers and Aged Care Provider Responses.
Support for residents
The Australian Government considers the personal welfare and mental health of residents in residential aged care facilities to be of vital importance.
Where visit restrictions are in place, as they are currently across NSW, arrangements should be put in place for residents and their families to regularly communicate. If residents are not able to get together with their loved ones during the festive season providers can:
- ensure residents can continue to move freely around the facility wherever possible to ensure personal welfare and mental health
- help facilitate phone calls or video conferencing between residents and families when possible
- continue to run / expand their usual activities for residents
- expand and roster on additional lifestyle staff.
Asymptomatic testing for residents and workers
The Australian Government has expanded capacity for testing asymptomatic aged care residents and workers in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Residential aged care services in this area have been or will be contacted to offer in-reach testing for aged care residents and workers. The testing provider will then contact the services directly to arrange for the testing teams to come on site.
Testing will be carried out on a voluntary basis but all services are strongly encouraged to take up the asymptomatic testing service. The Australian Government would like to thank the services that have already participated.
Limiting workers to one site
The safety of residents and workers in residential aged care is the highest priority. To minimise the potential risk of workers unintentionally transmitting COVID-19 by working across multiple sites, aged care workers in residential aged care facilities in the Northern Beaches are reminded to limit their work to one site. This is currently limited to the Northern Beaches local government area but may be extended if required.
Employers must support their workers in this arrangement and will be eligible for Australian Government grant funding to cover the out of pocket costs associated with ensuring workers are not financially disadvantaged. This arrangement will be supported by sector-led Guiding Principles, with additional resources available from the Support Hub. Providers in the Northern Beaches can contact the Support Hub on 1800 491 793.
OPAN Outbound Call Service
To ensure older Australians are not missing out on services they need to stay healthy, and to make sure they feel supported during this challenging time, OPAN is able to receive referrals from home care and CHSP providers, as well as My Aged Care through their Outbound Call Service. This service is for both ongoing and cancelling clients and for all people who need extra emotional and social support. The service is complementary to the work of home care providers in continuing to connect with the older Australians they assist.
Further information and advice
Please visit our website for information and resources to assist in preparing and managing a COVID-19 outbreak.