Government’s response to the Royal Commission’s Progress Report and the updated National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan
The Australian Government accepted and has acted on all six recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on COVID-19 as previously announced in October 2020.
The Australian Government’s response to these recommendations was tabled in Parliament yesterday, ahead of the 1 December deadline. The Implementation Progress Report on the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report – Aged Care and COVID-19 – a special report is available on the Department of Health’s website.
In conjunction with the tabling of the report, the Government announced it is investing a further $132.2 million to respond to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s recommendations on COVID-19. This funding package includes new measures to support access to mental and allied health services through the Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) and support for Infection Prevention and Control training within residential aged care facilities.
In response to recommendation four of the Royal Commission’s report, the Government has updated the National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan (National Plan) to its seventh edition. The revised plan builds on the critical and successful work already undertaken by the Commonwealth Government and allows flexibility to manage individual situations in each state and territory.
The Government will continue to work closely with aged care providers and all states and territories to ensure the ongoing safety and care of senior Australians.
Updated outbreak management planning for aged care
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has released a new resource on Outbreak management planning in aged care. This resource provides practical guidance to assist residential aged care providers to support their workers, care recipients, families and visitors to prevent, prepare for and manage outbreaks of COVID-19.
The Commission will host a webinar on the new outbreak management planning resource on Thursday 10 December 2020. Further information about the webinar will be made available shortly.
Virtual ACFI reviews
The Department of Health is now undertaking ACFI reviews from its offices until further notice. This removes any risk of COVID-19 transmission during departmental staff visits.
The Department has had queries about pain management assessments to support claims under ACFI question 12.4 (b). Details can be found on the Department’s website.
Updated directions for SA on the use of masks
South Australia has updated requirements on wearing masks in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). This advice is included in the Emergency Direction number 15 that came into effect on 1 December 2020.
To minimise the chance of COVID-19 being introduced to aged care facilities, a person (other than a resident or a child under 12 years) must not enter or remain on the premises of a RACF, unless the person is wearing a single use surgical mask (covering mouth and nose) at all times when in the physical presence of other persons.
At this time, RACFs in SA are not required to have a COVIDSAfe plan or the COVID SAfe Check-In (QR code / app) for contact tracing. Services should keep appropriate records of staff and visitors attending the site should for contact purposes (please see previous letter from Dr Ann Koehler, Deputy Director CDCB in relation to this).
Home Care recipients and their carers are required to wear a mask unless they can be exempted under certain conditions by a professional providing care.
Aged care services should continue to use existing suppliers to source personal protective equipment (PPE). If you require additional PPE and cannot source it through your usual means, you can submit a request to the National Medical Stockpile through the online PPE form. Applications for additional PPE will be prioritised and distributed to aged care facilities that are most in need.
Updated directions for Victoria
Victorian RACFs are strongly encouraged to welcome visitors back and provide freedom of movement for residents in a proactive and safe way. Connecting with family and friends, accessing facility common areas and attending appointments are essential activities to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of residents.
There are now no limits on the number, reason or duration of visits. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has issued updated guidance for facilities and visitors, including a fact sheet on visitors in residential aged care. Providers are urged to offer residents comfortable visiting areas outdoors, and are reminded to ensure they manage their COVIDSafe planning and correct use of masks and hand hygiene.
DHHS has also moved to a risk-based approach for PPE requirements, updating Directions for the use of PPE for aged care workers, consistent with guidelines reviewed and endorsed by the AHPPC and Infection Control Expert Group.
Eye protection (face shield or goggles) is not currently required unless you are:
- caring for a resident who is classified as a close contact and is in quarantine
- caring for a resident who is in isolation with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
SACWIC grants still open
A reminder that the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) grant, funded by the Australian Government, is open until 30 June 2021. Providers can submit applications for the reimbursement of expenses incurred during the period 15 July 2020 to 30 November 2020.
The SACWIC opened on 4 August 2020 to support providers in the Melbourne and Mitchell Shire designated hotspots, who adopted the 'Guiding Principles for residential aged care – keeping Victorian residents and workers safe' (the Principles).
The activity period for the grant ended on 30 November 2020 in line with the end of single site workforce arrangements for privately run residential aged care facilities under the Principles.
Public Sector facilities in Victoria are continuing single site arrangements until February 2021, as funded by DHHS. Other supports are available:
- The Support Hub is available for Victorian providers interested in voluntarily reducing workforce mobility on an ongoing basis, recognising the financial and workplace relations impacts of doing so. Visit the site or (free call) 1800 491 793.
- Counselling support (until December 30) for workers and managers affected by the change in working arrangements (free call) 1800 687 327 (free call) or visit Converge International. Please state that you are from the "VIC Residential Aged Care Workforce" when booking.