Protecting older Australians: COVID-19 update 18 December 2020

Extending mental health support for aged care residents; resources from Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission; Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission visitor access campaign; reminder about entry restrictions to RACFs and more.

Date published:
Health sector

This week’s newsletter will be the last Protecting Older Australians COVID-19 Update for 2020. Our newsletter will recommence in early January.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your teams a safe and happy holiday season. We thank you for your continued dedication and commitment throughout this difficult year to look after those in your care.

This week’s edition contains information about funding announced by the Government to support the mental health of aged care residents by facilitating Medicare subsidised access to additional psychological services.

There’s also information on the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s visitor access campaign and a link to its recent webinar on new outbreak management resources.

Updated visitation information from state health authorities is contained in this edition, along with a reminder to all aged care providers to have a COVID safe holiday season.

We encourage you to share this newsletter with your colleagues and workforce, particularly your communications teams. Please also encourage them to subscribe for future updates. You can also view past editions of the Protecting Older Australians Newsletter.

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.

Extending mental health support for aged care residents

On 30 November 2020, the Australian Government announced $35.5 million to expand access to the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS (Better Access) initiative to aged care residents and evaluate Better Access.

From 10 December 2020 until 30 June 2022, aged care residents can access up to 20 individual psychological services per calendar year where their general practitioner or psychiatrist determines they would clinically benefit from additional mental health support.

Read more on the information sheet and further information can also be found on the department's website and information for practitioners will be available shortly on the MBS Online website. For any queries on the measure, please contact

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission resources now available

On 10 December 2020, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission hosted a webinar on their recently released outbreak management resources.

The Commission has published a recording of their Outbreak Management Planning in Aged Care webinar for providers. The Outbreak management planning in aged care guidance and Outbreak management planning short video are also available on the Commission’s website. These resources provide practical guidance to support COVID-19 outbreak management planning and preparation in residential aged care facilities.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission visitor access campaign

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has started a visitor access campaign this month, which will continue into 2021, to support the transition of the aged care sector into a COVID-normal operating environment. This campaign will provide resources and guidance for aged care consumers, their families and approved providers to manage safe visitor access.

The Commissioner, Janet Anderson PSM, has written to all aged care providers requesting that they focus on both ensuring best practice infection prevention and supporting the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of residents by ensuring they have regular access to family and friends.

More information can be found here.

Reminder – Stay up to date with entry restrictions to RACFs

As we are heading into the festive season this is a reminder to all residential aged care providers about entry restrictions for residential aged care facilities. State and territory governments established directions under their emergency management provisions in response to COVID-19. The directions are continuing to be updated in response to the COVID-19 situation.

Approved providers should continue to stay up to date with the directions and their legislative responsibilities in relation to state and territory public health orders and contact the relevant state or territory health department as needed. Further information for residential aged care providers and individuals to explain how the directions apply is available on state and territory government health department websites.

New South Wales Health has issued updated advice to residential aged care providers and home care providers. Until further notice, aged care facilities in the Northern area of Northern Beaches (i.e. Collaroy and north of Collaroy) should exclude all visitors. Staff in these locations must wear a surgical mask at work. Staff and visitors must be excluded if they have from 13 December been in any of the locations on the self-isolate and get tested immediately list, at the times and dates listed or on the monitor for symptoms list. Revised entry requirements for residential aged care facilities commenced on 15 December 2020. Full details are included in the Public Health (COVID-19 Aged Care Facilities) Order (No 4) 2020.

Queensland Health has issued Aged Care Direction No.15. Under this direction visitors, staff and volunteers can enter a residential aged care facility if they have been in a safe travel zone country in the past 14 days. Currently only New Zealand is a safe travel zone country. For full details read the Aged Care Direction (No. 15).

In South Australia the Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 17) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 came into effect on 14 December 2020. There are no restrictions on the number of care and support visits a resident may receive. However, until 23 December 2020, everyone onsite (excluding residents and children under 12 years) must wear a face mask (covering mouth and nose) at all times when in the physical presence of other people.

Have a COVIDSafe Holiday Season

We hope you all have a safe, restful and healthy festive season. We know 2020 has been a difficult year for so many of you and your teams. Thank you once again for your ongoing work to protect those in your care.

We remind you to continue to ensure you maintain good infection control processes, ensure you have a sufficient stockpile of personal protective equipment, and that you and your staff have completed the government's COVID-19 infection control training.

Aged care providers should note that the Department of Health’s inbox will continue to be monitored over the holiday season. Aged care providers are reminded that they need to urgently contact both their local PHU and the Commonwealth Department of Health via in response to a confirmed case of COVID-19.

PHU contact details are:

  • NSW – 1300 066 055
  • WA – 08 9222 8588 or 08 6373 2222 (if confirmed COVID-19)
  • SA – 1300 232 272
  • NT – 08 8922 8044
  • ACT – (02) 5124 9213 After Hours: 02 9962 4155
  • QLD – 13 432 584 (13 HEALTH)
  • TAS – 1800 671 738
  • VIC – 1300 651 160


  • Poster: Let’s be COVIDSAFE together.
  • Updated fact sheet: Testing of asymptomatic aged care workers – information for providers.
  • Radio ad: Grief and Trauma support for those impacted by COVID-19 in the aged care sector.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission: Webinar on outbreak management guidance

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