Protecting Older Australians: COVID-19 update 16 October 2020
What’s new: testing of asymptomatic residential aged care workers in Victoria, grief and trauma support for the aged care sector, new COVID-19 supplement, extended support for aged care workers in grant, hay fever and COVID-19 and updated NSW restrictions.
Today’s newsletter contains information on extended testing arrangements for asymptomatic aged care workers in Victoria. Also included is information on the Australian Government’s grief and trauma response package, an important set of measures designed to ensure those affected by COVID-19 across the aged care sector can receive necessary support.
There is information on the new COVID-19 supplement designed to assist aged care providers with additional costs associated with infection prevention and control, as well as details about a further extension to the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 grant.
We have further advice to aid recognition of hayfever symptoms from COVID symptoms, and when to stay home and when to seek medical advice.
We have also included the latest advice from NSW on restrictions for residential aged care and home care providers.
Again we encourage you to share this newsletter with your colleagues and workforce. And encourage them to subscribe for future updates.
Anyone living in an aged care facility, their family or representative who needs support should contact the Older Person’s Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600.
Testing of asymptomatic residential aged care workers in Victoria
Australians living in aged care are among those most vulnerable to becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19. Stopping this virus from spreading into Victoria’s aged care facilities is our top priority. Testing gives health authorities the chance to find people with COVID-19 who are working in aged care, before they appear unwell. This will help health authorities identify where community transmission is occurring, before there are COVID-19 outbreaks.
To help the sector to drive down case numbers, the Australian Government has expanded capacity for testing of asymptomatic aged care workers. Residential aged care services in Victoria will be contacted by Melbourne Pathology or Aspen Medical, to offer in-reach testing for aged care workers. Services in hotspot locations will be prioritised.
Participation in testing is voluntary; however, we strongly encourage all residential aged care workers to participate. Aged Care workers include those on staff at the facility whether in direct personal care, hospitality services or administrative support. Testing is also encouraged for workers who may regularly attend the facility, such as medical practitioners, allied health, and National Disability Insurance Scheme staff. Testing will help providers know the COVID-19 status of workers on a given day. This may also alert providers if someone is positive before further transmission or a significant outbreak occurs.
Please see the testing testing of asymptomatic aged care workers factsheet for further information.
Grief and trauma support for the aged care sector
The Australian Government is investing $12.4 million in a Grief and Trauma Response Package to ensure support is available for those affected by COVID-19 across the aged care sector. This is part of the $171.5 million COVID-19 response plan for aged care support programs announced in August 2020.
The three organisations that will deliver these services are experts in their field and will provide a national response, as well as surge responses in COVID-19 hot spots, as required:
- Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health is Australia’s National Centre of Excellence in post-traumatic mental health. Phoenix will deliver a sector-wide trauma-informed care package that provides trauma training and resources for aged care residents, their families and aged care staff, including through the establishment of a dedicated website.
- The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement (ACGB) will provide specialist information and support to residential aged care and home care recipients and their families who have been affected by COVID-19.
- Dementia Support Australia (DSA) will implement a proactive engagement program to help alleviate the impacts of lockdown on aged care residents living with dementia.
Departmental case managers supporting aged care providers, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, and the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) will continue their enhanced advocacy and information support to people during the COVID-19 pandemic. OPAN will also play a linking and referral role to ensure that people who need them are aware of these services.
Read the Minister’s full media release.
New COVID-19 supplement
Please see the letter from Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians regarding the Government’s $217.6 million COVID-19 supplement payment which is being made available to assist residential aged care providers with the additional costs of preparing for and responding to COVID-19 from October 2020. This follows the first payment of the COVID-19 supplement in June 2020.
This funding is made available to providers to assist with the additional costs of preparing for and responding to COVID-19, including costs associated with facilitating and managing visitation arrangements for residents, infection prevention and control (IPC) and additional staff costs.
One of the specific requirements of the second payment is that every facility engage an onsite clinical lead to provide leadership and increase capacity in relation to IPC. Effective IPC capability is critical to minimising COVID-19 infections in residential care and responding to outbreaks that do occur.
Extended Support for aged care workers in COVID-19 grant
The Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant Opportunity is designed to minimise the risk of infection to aged care workers, residents and other consumers of aged care services. The Grant Opportunity was initially available to providers located in, or with staff located in, Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire until 26 October 2020. The Government has now agreed to further extend the grant period to 30 November 2020. While the COVID-19 situation in Victoria is easing, this further extension of funding will allow workers to continue to be supported to work at a single site in an effort to minimise the risk of ongoing outbreaks.
Approved providers can apply for funding up until 30 June 2021 to cover the costs of supporting eligible workers during the period to 30 November 2020:
- who normally work at multiple residential aged care facilities, but will be working solely at the facility being applied for
- who are not to work because they have been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, require testing or are subject to self-isolation or quarantine requirements
- to undertake training in the event a skills gap arises from where existing workers are not to work due to experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or are subject to self-isolation or quarantine requirements.
You can view the Grant Opportunity and documentation at Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (GO4215) Program.
For updates to the Guiding Principles for residential aged care – keeping Victorian residents and workers safe or further information and assistance, you can contact the Guiding Principles Support Hub on 1800 491 793 (Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm).
Hay fever and COVID-19
People who have hay fever or allergic asthma may have similar symptoms to the symptoms of COVID-19. Some differences are:
- fever does not occur with hay fever or allergic asthma
- itchy nose, itchy and watery eyes, and itchy throat and palate are common symptoms of hay fever but not COVID-19
More information about the different symptoms is available in the COVID-19: Identifying the symptoms factsheet.
It can be difficult to tell if your symptoms are due to allergies or to COVID-19. You should stay home and get tested:
- when you first get the allergy symptoms
- if your symptoms are unexpected, seem different or worse than usual, or do not respond to your usual medication.
Dr Nick Coatsworth gives more information about allergies and testing for COVID-19 in his Top 3 questions from 15 September 2020 video.
Updated NSW restrictions
Updates since the 9 October 2020 advice:
- Exclusion recommendations are in place for certain areas in Sydney and Victoria. These include:
- Any person who has been in Shepparton, VIC in the previous 14 days should be excluded regardless of a valid COVID-19 border region resident permit
- Lakemba (suburb), Liverpool LGA and Camden LGA
- Further advice will be reconsidered next week based on the incidence of COVID-19. In the meantime, facilities should monitor the COVID-19 news and updates for any new locations of concern.