Protecting older Australians: COVID-19 update 22 July 2020

What’s new: Announcement about support for aged care residents and workers across Victoria, advice for home care service providers in New South Wales, new process for requesting PPE, ‘Caring for people living with dementia during COVID-19 restrictions’ webina, and a reminder on OPAN services

Health sector

Today’s edition includes information on additional measures announced by both the Australian Government and Victorian Government to ensure aged care providers are equipped to minimise the spread of COVID-19, while continuing to provide quality care.

We have included advice from NSW Health on measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for home care service providers.

Today’s update also includes information regarding a new Aged Care PPE request form. To ensure PPE from the National Medical Stockpile is effectively prioritised on a needs-basis, providers are being asked to complete this new form.

A free webinar is being held tomorrow on ‘Caring for people living with dementia during COVID-19 restrictions’ with the link to join the webinar included in this newsletter.

A reminder too of the services available through OPAN and advice on how important it is for loved ones to stay connected to family in aged care services during lockdown.

We are once again reminding providers and their staff that the best thing you can do for the vulnerable people you care for is to stay at home if you are unwell, even with very mild symptoms, and get tested for COVID-19.

Thank you to all providers and especially those in Victoria who continue to support our senior Australians, during this critical time. For those in Victoria who need assistance, contact the Australian Government Department of Health Victorian State Office on 1800 078 709.

Announcement regarding support for aged care residents and aged care workers across Victoria

The Australian and Victorian Governments, in collaboration with representatives from the aged care sector, have announced additional measures to ensure aged care providers are equipped to minimise the spread of COVID-19, while continuing to provide quality care. This includes specific support to reduce the need for aged care workers to provide care across multiple aged care facilities. The measures being introduced include:

  • workforce funding support to ensure aged care workers are not financially disadvantaged for working at a single site or self-isolating where directed
  • an industry program to reduce the sharing of staff across aged care facilities
  • more Infection control training for aged care workers
  • enhanced surveillance and prioritising contact tracing for aged care workers and residents
  • 5 new COVID-19 testing teams for Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire 
  • working with private hospitals to create additional capacity to care for aged care residents from outbreak sites

Further details on these measures will be provided to the aged care sector shortly.

Advice for home care service providers in New South Wales

As COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria and now in New South Wales continue to emerge, it is crucial that all home care service providers maintain vigilance to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 into their services.

Given the current risk of COVID-19 now in the community, NSW Health recommends the implementation of the following measures:

  • Any staff with fever or respiratory symptoms, even mild, should be excluded from work. They should be advised to isolate at home and seek COVID-19 testing.
  • Any staff who have been in Victoria in the past 2 weeks should be excluded from providing home care services.
  • Any staff who reside in the Fairfield, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly local government areas, must wear a surgical mask while providing services until at least the end of July.
  • When providing care to clients who live in, or have visited the above local government areas, staff must wear a surgical mask while providing services until at least the end of July.
  • Staff actively ask clients about symptoms on arrival. If staff become aware of a client with symptoms, that client should be isolated from others, and arrangements made for COVID-19 testing.

Read Dr Kerry Chant’s letter to in-home care providers.

New process for requesting PPE

The Australian Government is prioritising Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) distribution from the National Medical Stockpile to aged care services that are most in need.

To ensure PPE from the National Medical Stockpile is effectively prioritised on a needs-basis, providers are being asked to complete a new Aged Care PPE Request Form. This form will be sent to you via email after an initial inquiry is made via the email address.

Providers will be asked a number of questions relating to their PPE needs, including staff numbers (or home client visits per day), number of care recipients, PPE supplies on hands, and PPE requirements. It is recommended someone with an appropriate level of operational knowledge complete the form.

If you have a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, a case manager will work with you on your PPE requirements.

At this stage, generally only masks are being distributed to residential and in home aged care services who are in a priority category.

A priority category is a residential or in home aged care service who:

  • cannot access PPE through their usual means, and
  • the Australian Government or State or Territory Government requires workers to wear masks in relation to a community transmission region, or
  • they deliver personal care or other activities that require close physical contact, where:
    • there is an outbreak or suspected case of COVID-19 or another notifiable infectious respiratory disease, or
    • there is an immediate threat to the continuity of safe quality care due to a lack of access to PPE supplies.

Providers should also continue to try to source the PPE through suppliers while awaiting a response. Providers need to establish an ongoing general PPE supply.

In the absence of a vaccine for COVID-19, preventing exposure is the single most important step that any of us can take to protect ourselves and others from contracting this virus.

Providers should be undertaking routine screening of staff and visitors on entry irrespective of size or location. It is especially important for residential services located in communities (and/or drawing their staff from communities) where there is a local cluster of people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, or which are considered to be at higher risk of an outbreak.

Read entry screening advice for residential aged care facilities.

'Caring for people living with dementia during COVID-19 restrictions' webinar

FREE Webinar: Caring for people living with dementia during COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday 22 July 2020, 3:00pm-4:00pm

We encourage people working in aged care to watch this webinar to learn about how to provide safe care for older people with dementia during COVID-19 restrictions. Older people receiving aged care, their families, friends and representatives are also encouraged to watch. The webinar hosted by Dementia Australia and the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) will cover:

  • how COVID-19 restrictions impact people living with dementia
  • the challenges for those caring for individuals with dementia
  • how to uphold the rights of older people while keeping everyone safe from COVID-19
  • balancing safety measures with person-centred care during COVID-19 restrictions.

Read more information and register.

OPAN services

A reminder that anyone living in an aged care facility, their family or representative who needs support can contact the Older Person’s Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600.

OPAN can connect care recipients and their families to its national network of 9 state and territory organisations. OPAN’s free services are supporting older people and their representatives during COVID-19. OPAN can also be of assistance to aged care providers during COVID-19 by assisting in communication with people living in the facility, their families and representatives and by providing an independent person outside the organisation to whom they can speak.

Older Australians, their families, friends and carers can also call the COVID-19 Support Line on 1800 171 866 if they:

  • would like to talk with someone about the COVID-19 restrictions and its impact on them
  • are feeling lonely or are worried about a loved one 
  • are caring for someone and need some information or a listening ear 
  • need help or advice about changing the aged care services they are receiving 
  • need help to access new care services or essential supplies such as shopping 
  • are living with dementia or are concerned about a friend or family member living with dementia 
  • would like to arrange a one-off or regular wellbeing check.

This service is operated by community organisations COTA Australia, National Seniors, Dementia Australia and OPAN with support from the Australian Government.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has also offered suggestions on how older Australians in residential aged care can stay connected to their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read examples of innovative ways for older Australians to stay in touch with their family and friends.


Coming soon

  • Mobile testing fact sheet

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