Message from the Ministers to Aged Care Providers
The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP and the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon Anika Wells MP, have written to aged care providers to let them know the Australian Government has accepted the recommendation of ATAGI and will open a 2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to those eligible from Monday, 20 February 2023.
The recommended booster dose will bolster residents' protection from severe illness, hospitalisation, or death from COVID-19 over the winter season. The Ministers’ strongly urge you to arrange for your residents to receive this new booster as soon as they become eligible.
Please work with your existing primary care providers as they are key to the delivery of on-site COVID-19 booster vaccinations as residents become eligible.
You can read the full message from the Ministers.
ATAGI advice on 2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster
The Australian Government has accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that all adults who have not had a COVID-19 booster or a confirmed case in the past six months can now get another booster to give them additional protection against severe illness from COVID-19 regardless of the number of prior doses received. This particularly applies to:
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- Adults aged 18-64 years who have medical comorbidities that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, or disability with significant or complex health needs.
The 2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster dose will open to those newly eligible from Monday, 20 February 2023.
The 2023 booster will increase residents’ protection from severe illness, hospitalisation, or death from COVID-19, especially over the winter period.
Providers are encouraged to start working with your existing primary care provider to plan for residents to receive this new booster as soon as they are eligible. For further information on the ATAGI decision, please visit the Department's website.
If you need COVID-19 vaccination support, please contact us at RACFVaccineClinics@health.gov.au and we will liaise with the relevant Primary Health Network to determine what assistance is available through primary care providers in your area.
Webinar – aged care COVID-19 update
The first webinar for this year will be held on Thursday 23 February 2023, 1pm - 2pm (AEDT).
In this session you will hear from Professor Michael Kidd and Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Professor Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, on COVID-19 safe behaviours and PCR testing practices. The Department will also provide an update on the latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on the 2023 COVID-19 booster doses.
Please register to attend.
This session will include a moderated Q&A session with Departmental officials and we encourage you to submit questions in advance through the registration link.
To find more information please visit our website or email us if you have any questions:
Reminder: Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
Aged care providers should make sure that all aged care homes and in-home care services have appropriate stocks of PPE available and arrangements with commercial suppliers to replenish PPE stocks as required.
Residential aged care services should encourage staff and visitors to wear a face mask when indoors and in close contact with other people at a residential care home.
All in-home care services should provide their staff with PPE to use in each consumer's home, including any additional PPE required to support a consumer who has tested positive to COVID-19.
During an outbreak, aged care homes should extend the provision of PPE to all visitors and increase the PPE worn by staff. This includes gloves, gowns, eye protection and N95 face masks as well as dedicated stations to put on and take PPE off safely.
Particulate filter respirators (N95 or P2 masks) offer greater protection against airborne pathogens. The type of mask chosen should be informed by a risk assessment as part of a suite of measures in line with the hierarchy of controls in infection prevention and control.
Aged care workers who wear N95 masks should complete fit testing before first use and perform a fit check each time they are used. Providers are encouraged to organise fit testing for new staff and should ensure a buddy system is in place for checking.
Under state and territory workplace safety legislation, all aged care services are responsible for providing a safe working environment for their staff and visitors. This includes providing appropriate PPE as well as providing training on how to use and dispose of it.
Reminder: Reporting COVID-19 cases in your service
Residential aged care providers are required to report ALL COVID-19 cases for residents, staff and visitors immediately to the Department of Health and Aged Care via the My Aged Care COVID-19 Support Portal.
With the State and Territory network Case Management inboxes no longer being monitored for updates to COVID cases, closures or requests for Commonwealth support, the My Aged Care COVID-19 Support Portal replaces email notification of a positive case in your facility.
You should also report COVID-19 positive cases to your Public Health Unit (PHU) immediately, if required. PHUs may require detailed individual-level information to assist aged care services.
Reminder: Changes to how services request Commonwealth COVID-19 Support
From 1 February 2023, requests for Commonwealth supports are now managed through a central inbox, with State and Territory Network Case Management inboxes no longer being monitored.
Emails sent to a case management inbox will receive an automatic reply with the following information on the revised process.
The new centralised contact point to request any of the following Commonwealth supports is AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au. Your request will be referred to the relevant area for action.
Further information on how to access supports is outlined below:
Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits
The Australian Government is providing RAT kits to all residential aged care homes for surveillance screening of staff and visitors. These will be delivered without you needing to place a request.
Should you wish to opt out of receiving this supply or alter the quantity and/or frequency of supply please contact the Department by email: AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au.
PCR testing may be required for residents and staff during an outbreak.
In-reach COVID-19 PCR testing continues to be available through pathology providers to residential aged care homes that are managing COVID-19 outbreaks, including through a dedicated service provided by Sonic Healthcare (Sonic) until 30 April 2023.
It remains a requirement that any requests for COVID-19 PCR testing should only be made where a medical practitioner GP has determined the testing is necessary to inform the clinical management of the resident or where the public health unit has determined PCR testing is needed to support outbreak management activities. Requests for in-reach PCR testing from Sonic can be made by emailing the Department: AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au.
Access to Medicare subsidised PCR testing can also be undertaken by regular respiratory PCR pathways for your residential aged care home following request from a GP or other primary care practitioners. These pathways should be prioritised.
Oral antivirals treatments
The oral antivirals Lagevrio® and Paxlovid® are available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Please ensure your COVID-19 positive residents have access to oral antivirals, prescribed by a medical practitioner as a priority.
If you need assistance accessing a prescriber, consider HealthDirect’s free helpline 1800 022 222 or the online Service Finder.
The Find a Pharmacy website is available for sourcing antivirals through community pharmacy channels, your Primary Health Network may also be able to assist connect you to a local prescriber.
If you are in outbreak and are unable to access antivirals quickly, please contact the Department via email: AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au.
Residential aged care homes that need temporary surge workforce can contact the Department once all other attempts to access staff from your organisation’s internal or agency workforce have been unsuccessful. In the first instance the provider should aim to self-manage their workforce where possible.
For further information on surge workforce, please refer to COVID-19 Aged Care Workforce Measures FAQs.
For processing of workforce requests please contact the Department via email: AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
The supply of PPE, through the NMS, continues to be available until 31 December 2023 to support residential aged care homes that are in outbreak when commercial supplies are unavailable or insufficient.
If your residential aged care home is experiencing an outbreak and you have exhausted all attempts to source PPE from commercial suppliers, you can request additional PPE through the My Aged Care Provider portal.