Protecting older Australians: COVID-19 update 2 May 2020
What’s new: New COVID-19 payment for residential aged care, Aged Care Visitor Access Code, accessing personal monitoring technology, rescheduled webinar – Friday May 8, guidance for symptom monitoring in health and aged care workers, and a new flu vaccination resource for RACFs.
This edition covers the additional funding for the aged care sector announced today by the National Cabinet and the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport, the Hon Senator Richard Colbeck.
Minister Colbeck also released the Aged Care Visitor Access Code developed by aged care industry peaks and consumer groups, noted by the National Cabinet, to facilitate visits with loved ones and other support people for residents in aged care homes.
There is more information in this edition about accessing personal monitoring technology, as well as guidance from the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) on symptom monitoring for all workers across health and aged care settings.
Minister Colbeck extended his congratulations and thanks to the entire aged care sector for its management of COVID-19 to date and the work you are all doing to protect our most vulnerable in some very challenging circumstances.
New COVID-19 payment for residential aged care
The Prime Minister jointly announced today with Minister Colbeck, that the Australian Government is making a special COVID-19 payment, totalling $205 million, to all residential aged care providers to further support their response to the coronavirus pandemic. The payment will be linked to the number of residents being cared for by the facility. Facilities outside major metropolitan areas will receive a 50% loading to cover the additional costs of providing care in these areas. The amount will equate to $900 per resident in major metropolitan areas and around $1350 per resident in all other areas.
This new payment is about protecting some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens. It recognises the additional costs that have been and are continuing to be incurred by the aged care sector since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Along with the 1.2% increase to the Aged Care Funding Instrument and the 30% increase to the residential viability and homeless supplements announced on 20 March 2020, the total additional investment paid directly to residential aged care providers in response to the COVID-19 crisis is almost $300 million. This is on top of the $235 million retention bonus being paid to residential and home care workers to strengthen the workforce during this pandemic and the $101 million to support providers directly impacted by an outbreak.
The new payment will be provided through Services Australia and will be made by early June. Services Australia is currently working on the necessary payment system updates.
In addition, the Business Improvement Fund has been extended for another year with $48 million available to assist providers improve their business operations.
Aged Care Visitor Access Code
A Visitor Access Code to ensure a nationally consistent visitation policy to residential aged care homes during the COVID-19 crisis has been released by aged care peaks and consumer advocacy organisations for consultation with the public. The Code aims to apply a compassionate and consistent visitor policy that continues to minimise the risk of COVID-19, while providing innovative on-site visiting solutions to maintain the mental health of residents.
The draft Code has been released for public consultation. Consultations will take place next week with aged care residents, families, friends and aged care providers and staff. Consultations will close at 3pm on Thursday 7 May. It is envisaged the code will be finalised by Monday 11 May 2020. The draft code is available at cota.org.au/visitor-access-code or agedservices.asn.au.
Accessing personal monitoring technology
As announced last week, Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) service providers are now able to use unspent 2019‑20 funding to purchase up to $1000 worth of personal monitoring technology for their vulnerable clients in need of this support during COVID-19. This is important for older Australians and their informal carers and family who are self-isolating to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, thereby reducing their support and social connectedness.
Home Care Package care recipients will also be able to use their packages to access personal monitoring services to keep them safe at home.
A range of technology options are available in the private market, and the Department does not recommend any particular brand or device. CHSP service providers will need to source the monitoring equipment themselves with a view to accessing equipment that best meets the needs of the client. The Department of Health notes that in Australia the relevant Standard for personal monitoring technology is AS 4607 (personal response systems). This Standard specifies the minimum performance, design and operation requirements for telecommunications based personal response systems.
CHSP providers, funded to provide social support individual or group), can use grant funds to purchase IT, such as tablets, smart devices, and internet subscriptions to help connect older people to their family, carers and social groups under existing CHSP grant rules. This is not an option at the moment for CHSP providers not funded to provide social support.
To help Home Care Package recipients stay connected with loved ones and their community, Package funds can also be used to:
- Purchase suitable digital technology and video conferencing equipment that meet their needs
- Access assistance in setting up and learning how to use the technology.
Rescheduled webinar – Friday 8 May
A webinar will be held on Friday May 8 from 4.00pm – 5.00pm AEST on residential aged care COVID-19 outbreak preparedness and management.
The webinar will cover what residential aged care facilities should be doing in preparation for a potential COVID-19 outbreak, what to do if there is an outbreak, as well as the support available to services in the event of a COVID-19 case.
The webinar panel will include; Michael Lye (Deputy Secretary), Alison McMillan (Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer), Lisa Peterson (State Manager NSW), Janet Anderson (the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner), and a member of the Aspen Medical team.
The discussion will be moderated by Amy Laffan, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Aged Care Reform and Compliance Division. There will be an opportunity for Q and A following a discussion from the panel members.
Guidance for symptom monitoring for health and aged care workers
This guidance was developed by the Communicable Disease Network of Australia (CDNA) and endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
This guidance is intended for health and residential aged care settings considering monitoring for symptoms. Health screening for health and aged care workers for symptoms of COVID-19 in these settings may be used as one of a suite of measures to detect and prevent outbreaks.
You can find the guidance here and we encourage RACF providers to make this available to their staff.
State and territory government directions
States and territories have established directions giving effect to the AHPPC’s recommendation that visitors and staff (including visiting workers) should not be permitted to enter a residential aged care facility, if they have not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1 May 2020).
Residential aged care facilities may wish to display this poster at entrances, to alert anyone entering the facility of these flu vaccination requirements.
For further information on the flu vaccination entry restrictions, please refer to your jurisdictional public health or emergency direction.
- Read the Prime Minister and Minister Colbeck’s transcript from their Friday May 1 press conference
- COVID-19 training
- PPE flowchart – to assist with when and how to use PPE
- More information on accessing the COVID-19 aged care support grant
- Advice for workers who work at multiple aged care facilities