Protecting older Australians: COVID-19 update 22 January 2021

What’s new: Update on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines for residential aged care facilities, Funding support for single site arrangements is ending, Updated NSW directions to aged care providers for visitors and staff.

Date published:
Audience:
Health sector

Thank you for continuing to stay up to date with the latest information via this newsletter.

This edition includes an update on the roll-out strategy for the COVID-19 vaccines. Residential aged care facilities will play an important role in protecting residents and workers.

We also cover the conclusion of the single site funding arrangement (SACWIC Grant) and the latest aged care directions in NSW and QLD. There are also reminders on staying up-to-date with exposure locations and IPC Lead training requirements.

Please share this newsletter with your colleagues and workforce, particularly your communications teams and encourage them to subscribe for future updates. Please note you can 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.

Update on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines for residential aged care facilities

Residential aged care facility staff and residents are a priority under the Australian Government’s COVID-19 Vaccines National Rollout Strategy and will be among the first people in Australia to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1a.

A staged rollout of the vaccine is expected to commence from mid-February 2021.

COVID-19 vaccines will be safe and free for everyone living in Australia. The Australian Government strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

A COVID-19 vaccine is just one part of keeping the community safe and healthy. It is important for everyone to continue COVIDSafe practises.

Keep up to date with trusted information

We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

We will keep you informed about COVID-19 vaccines and the rollout via this newsletter, and more information will be distributed to residential aged care facilities, people in residential aged care, aged care sector peak bodies and stakeholder groups, and the general public soon.

You can find more information, including translated information, and subscribe to receive the COVID-19 Vaccines Updates on our COVID-19 vaccines website.

You can also get regular updates via the Department of Health’s social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.

Funding support for single site arrangements is ending

Based on current case numbers in the community and within aged care residents and staff in these areas, current single site workforce arrangements in hotspots and high risk locations can begin to cease. The Australian Government would like to thank the residential aged care sector for its hard work and collaboration in moving to these arrangements.

Public Sector facilities in Victoria are continuing single site arrangements until February 2021, as funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, Queensland Government Aged Care Direction No.22 remains in place which recommends Aged Care Facilities limit the mobility of their workers.

Australian Government funding support under the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 Grant (SACWIC) is available to support providers who have implemented single site arrangements during the relevant grant period.

Providers should commence transition out activities so that normal working arrangements can recommence from the dates set out below. After these dates, eligible providers can submit applications for the SACWIC grant. This will remain open until 30 June 2021. Providers can submit an application for out of pocket expenses after 22 January 2021.

State

Local Government Area/Suburb

SACWIC Grant Activity Period

New South Wales

Northern Beaches LGA

18 December 2020 – 29 January 2021

Victoria

Brighton

31 December 2020 – 29 January 2021

Doveton

Glen Waverley

McKinnon

Mordialloc

Moorabbin

Queensland

City of Brisbane

8 January 2021 – 22 January 2021

City of Ipswich

Logan City

Moreton Bay Region

Redland City

Providers are also encouraged to take steps to understand your workforce by developing a register for recording each workers’ mobility and their skills and training. Further advice on how to prepare for and implement a single site workforce arrangement can be found in the National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan. This guidance will support providers to prepare in the event single site arrangements are required again in the future.

For guidance on practical implementation of single site arrangements and the available funding support, providers can visit the Guiding Principles Support Hub website or phone the hotline on 1800 491 793.

Updated NSW directions to aged care providers for visitors and staff

NSW Health has updated its advice for Residential Aged Care Facilities and Home Care Service providers has been updated as at 21 January 2021.

This latest advice is that residential aged care facilities must:

  • ensure all staff and visitors wear a surgical mask within the facility
  • exclude all staff and visitors who:
    • have COVID-19 symptoms - fever (37.5°C or higher) or symptoms of COVID-19 (acute blocked nose congestion has been added to the list of symptoms)
    • have been to any of the latest COVID-19 locations in NSW (including the casual contacts list) at the times and dates listed during the last 14 days, except for the monitor for symptoms list
    • the interstate areas and times of concern
    • live in a household with a person who is currently self-isolating
    • are a close contact of a person confirmed with COVID within their self-isolation period
    • are waiting for a COVID-19 test result

Please ensure you and your staff are regularly checking the latest COVID-19 locations for NSW, Victoria and Queensland to ensure you are meeting the requirements for visitor and staff exclusions.

Aged care providers are urged to regularly visit the NSW COVID-19 website on areas of active community transmission in order to stay up to date with advice as it changes.

Updated Queensland directions for aged care providers and visitors

Queensland Health has issued Aged Care Direction No.22 which came into effect from 1am on 22 January 2021. This direction is summarised below and we encourage you to be across the full detail of the direction.

  • There are no restricted Local Government Areas.
  • You can now enter a residential aged care facility if you have been in Greater Brisbane since 2 January 2021. Certain restrictions continue to apply to residential aged care facilities under the Aged Care Direction.

Visitors do not need an exemption from the Chief Health Officer to enter a residential aged care facility for an end of life visit if they have been in Greater Brisbane since 2 January 2021.

Visitors still need an exemption for an end of life visit if they have been overseas or in a hotspot in the last 14 days.

The direction remains that a person must not enter, or remain on, the premises of a residential aged care facility if during the prior 14 days the person’s circumstances place them at greater risk of introducing COVID-19 into a RACF.

The Directions also encourage, where possible, that staff do not work across multiple sites. This includes agency workers and staff working in aged care across other settings such as hospitals. Operators must develop a Workforce Management Plan.

Anyone providing medical care (including staff, volunteers or family members) must wear appropriate PPE as outlined in Queensland Health’s Residential Aged Care facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance.

Reminder: Stay up to date with COVID-19 exposure locations and alerts

All approved aged care providers are urged to continue to monitor and remain up to date with the list of COVID-19 exposure sites across jurisdictions. State and territory health authorities continue to update these lists as new information becomes available. We encourage providers to ensure staff are also familiar with these lists.

Reminder: IPC lead training requirements

A reminder that as a part of the second COVID-19 supplement, residential aged care providers are required to put in place an infection prevention and control (IPC) lead.

Nominated IPC leads should now be undertaking specialist IPC training (if not previously completed) in order to complete this by 28 February 2021. Providers are strongly encouraged to support their nominated IPC lead to meet this deadline.

Residential aged care providers were required to report their IPC leads to the Department in December 2020 through the My Aged Care Provider Portal. Providers can continue to update this information in the portal to reflect any changes to nominated leads and/or progression through the training. The Department will be contacting providers who have yet to report or misreported shortly.

Resources

  • Updated: COVID-19 guidelines for infection prevention and control in residential care facilities
  • Report: Weekly data snapshot on COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian Residential Aged Care

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