What you need to know - COVID-19 outbreak response and management

As we transition to living with COVID-19 in our community, it is vital that aged care providers take proactive steps to minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread within residential aged care facilities (RACF).

Date published:
Subscriber announcement
Health sector

Given that COVID-19 exposure locations are increasing across South Australia, it is important all RACFs understand what they need to do an event of a positive case in your service and stay up to date with and understand the South Australian Government and Commonwealth requirements. Some important reminders below:

Reporting a positive case of a staff member or resident

If a staff member or resident becomes positive with COVID-19 you must immediately:

  • notify the South Australian Government public health unit at Communicable Diseases Control Branch (CDCB) SA Health on 1300 232 272.
  • notify the Australian Government of Health by emailing: agedcareCOVIDcases@health.gov.au

Under the Privacy Act 1988, this information should be de-identified and should not include personal or private information that can identify an individual, such as their name, address, date of birth or contact details. It should also not include information about a resident’s movements or passing.

An example of the information required:

  • resident #1 – positive result confirmed 12/08 at 8.15am
    • asymptomatic
    • close contact of positive staff member
    • in a wing with 25 other residents
    • isolated since 11/08
  • staff member #1 – positive result received 11/08 at 9am
    • AIN/RN/kitchen staff
    • last worked 9/08
    • felt unwell 10/08

For those of you who have more than one facility, it is particularly important to note that this must be done for each facility, separately. If you have already provided notification for one facility and then you have an outbreak in another, please send a separate notification to the agedcareCOVIDcases@health.gov.au

Australian Government Managing a COVID-19 outbreak in residential aged care

It is essential you understand what an outbreak is, what you must do if one occurs in your facility, including activating your Outbreak Management Plan. You should ensure you have undertaken effective workforce planning and be ready to activate these plans in the event of an outbreak.

If your service is in an outbreak, financial support is available to providers to cover some of the direct costs of managing the outbreak including workforce surge and PPE. More information about this and managing an outbreak is here: Managing a COVID-19 outbreak in residential aged care

The First 24 hours is crucial in managing COVID-19 in a residential aged care facility - This fact sheet describes the steps you should take in the first 24 hours following the identification of a COVID-19 positive case in a RACF. The implementation of these steps is critical to minimising the spread of the virus.

Communication with residents, their families and visitors

In the event of a COVID-19 diagnosis, facilities will need to inform: residents , staff and contractors, primary family contacts, resident advocates (if a resident with cognitive impairment), and other key stakeholders.

You should also expect and prepare to manage a very high volume of calls from families and the media. Incoming calls within the first 24 hours alone could exceed 1,000.  Appoint staff to manage communications and take the calls and establish a single point of contact for media queries.

OPAN - Aged Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS) provide a range of resources for RACFS to support residents and their families during an outbreak: OPAN - COVID Resources SA - To find out more about these supports, you service can contact ARAS: Freecall 1800 700 600 8am–8pm AEST Mon-Fri 10am-2pm Sat Hours may diff er on public holidays.

Protective Equipment (PPE) Preparedness and Stocktake

Facilities need to ensure that have adequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff; and must continue to order stock as needed. Providers need to set-up Infection prevention control (IPC) safe places to put on and take off PPE as well as places to store the additional PPE stocks. Check your supply of equipment and signs and make sure you also have a plan to manage contaminated clinical waste.

Carry out an analysis of your current PPE and hand sanitiser stock levels. Estimate what you will require over the coming fortnight allowing for public holidays.  Providers are responsible for sourcing PPE and should have sufficient levels on hand for any infectious outbreak.

If your service is in an outbreak site and require additional PPE and cannot source it through your usual means, you can contact your assigned Case Manager about processes to access emergency PPE supplies from the National Medical Stockpile. The state health department may be able to help access emergency stocks until the supplies arrive from the Commonwealth. For multi-site providers, if you have a site in an outbreak, consider redistribution to that service to maintain continuity of PPE while your orders are pending, or emergency stocks are in transition from Commonwealth or state emergency stockpiles.

SA Health guidance Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and Particulate Filter Respirators (PFR)

Training staff in the correct use of PPE minimises the potential of COVID-19 transmission within residential aged care facilities amongst workers and residents. For more information visit the staff protection from infections page.

PFR are the recommended face mask to be worn in the event of COVID-19 exposure and outbreaks. PFR are also appropriate as part of the PPE required for all health care workers involved in aerosol-generating procedures and aerosol generating behaviours when a resident is confirmed or suspected of having a disease that may be transmitted via the droplet or airborne route (including COVID-19). If RACFs use PFR face masks as part of their escalating PPE strategy, it may significantly reduce the likelihood that staff will need to be furloughed in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the RACF, however, the use of PFR is not a mandatory requirement.

For information about PPE, see the Infection Control and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) advice webpage

SA Health COVID-19 Outbreak Strategy Documents

  • SA Health’s Testing, Tracing, Isolation and Quarantining (TTIQ) outlines the testing and quarantine requirements for contacts of a COVID-19 case from 23 November. This is a general guide and SA Health will advise people of their requirements following a risk-based assessment.
  • The COVID exposures in hospitals and facilities co-located with hospitals – Assessing and managing the risk document outlines the processes for assessing and managing the risk of COVID exposure within an acute setting and details the contact tracing and assessment that will be undertaken by SA Health when notified of a COVID positive case. The same processes will be used for COVID exposures in RACF and operators are encouraged to use these exposure guidance protocols to develop risk mitigation measures and undertake business continuity planning.

For further information about SA Health information for residential aged providers in SA: Aged Care - COVID-19 | SA Health

Department of Health