Protecting older Australians: COVID-19 update 23 April 2020
What’s new: Recommendations on visitations, Announcement from Minister Colbeck about a support line for Senior Australians, and Additional support for CHSP meals providers seeking to increase capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today’s newsletter provides an update for aged care providers on the discussion at National Cabinet following further considerations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) on visitor restrictions.
A new support line for Senior Australians was announced today. And information on additional support for CHSP meals providers to increase capacity.
Once again, we are reminding everyone working in aged care to stay at home if you are unwell. It is the best thing you can do for the vulnerable people you care for.
As always, many thanks to you and your teams for your continued support to protect older Australians.
Recommendations on Visitations
Infection prevention and control measures in residential aged care must be balanced with the well being and best interests of the residents. It is acknowledged that this balance is sometimes challenging to achieve. Aged care providers should assess the needs of both residents and their families, and be proportionate in their response to and application of the restrictions.
At its meeting on Tuesday 21 April, the National Cabinet discussed residential aged care facility (RACF) visitation restrictions and reaffirmed the visitation principles set out by the AHPPC and agreed by National Cabinet on March 18. The AHPPC also reinforced restricting visits and visitors that should be implemented by RACFs.
The National Cabinet reconfirmed that RACFs should not permit visitors and staff to enter facilities, if they have:
- returned from overseas in the last 14 days
- been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- a fever or any (even mild) symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath)
- not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1 May)
In relation to visits the following measures the AHPPC reinforced:
- Limiting visits to a short duration
- Limiting visits to a maximum of two visitors at one time per day. These may be immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy
- Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the RACF, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to residents is greater
- No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, should be permitted at this time
- No school groups of any size should be allowed to visit RACFs
- Children aged 16 years or less must be permitted to visit only by exception, as they are generally unable to comply with hygiene measures.
Visitors should also be encouraged to practise social distancing practices where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
Measures such as phone or video calls must be accessible to all residents to enable more regular communication with family members. Family and friends should be encouraged to maintain contact with residents by phone and other social communication apps, as appropriate.
The AHPPC recommendations also state any staff with symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath) should be excluded from the workplace and tested for COVID-19. Staff must report their symptoms to the RACF. Sick leave policies must also enable employees to stay home, if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
At the Press Conference on Tuesday 21 April, the Prime Minister noted that further restrictions may be placed on visitor access in exceptional circumstances, such a facility experiencing an outbreak or an outbreak in the area in which the facility is located.
Free COVID-19 Support Line for Senior Australians
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport, Senator The Hon Richard Colbeck, today released advice about further support for Senior Australians who are feeling isolated.
Senior Australians, their families and carers can now call a dedicated free call support line aimed at supporting the mental health of those impacted by the spread of COVID-19. The Minister said talking to someone who understands and listens was an important outlet for anybody struggling to cope as the spread of the virus creates additional pressure on individuals and communities.
This initiative is in partnership with the Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA), National Seniors Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Dementia Australia, the phone line will be staffed with advisers who can offer practical help and advice.
In addition, the Department is currently working to enable existing home support and home care providers to source technology-based personal monitoring systems for vulnerable Senior Australians who are self-isolating.
It builds on measures announced by the Australian Government including welfare checks for those who have suspended their home support packages and a $10 million funding injection for the Community Visitors Scheme aimed at keeping people connected.
Minister Colbeck said the COVID-19 phone line is a great initiative that reinforces the message of support for those in isolation, particularly if contact with family or friends is limited.
The support line will operate Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30am to 6pm.
Call the COVID-19 support line on 1800 171 866.
Additional Support for CHSP Meals Providers Seeking to Increase Capacity
The Department recognises the ongoing efforts of CHSP meals providers who continue to deliver care to older Australians in their own home and communities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
To help support CHSP meals providers during this period, the Department has entered into discussions with a number of large commercial meals producers and distributors who have indicated their willingness to assist in the production of meals to older Australians. CHSP meals providers who are experiencing difficulties sourcing and producing sufficient meals to meet increased demand are encouraged to contact one or more of these large suppliers.
The Department can provide you with the relevant contact details if you would like to discuss arrangements with one or more of these organisations. For more information about this opportunity, please email CHSPprogram [at] health.gov.au.
Additionally, the Department reminds CHSP meals providers that they remain eligible to apply for ad hoc grants in addition to any funds received through the CHSP COVID-19 emergency funding round for meals. Those providers experiencing demand pressures that exceed their available funds due to COVID-19 may apply for additional short-term funding by completing an application form outlining their requirements. To request a copy of this application form please email CHSPprogram [at] health.gov.au or your Community Grants Hub Funding Arrangement Manager.
The Department is actively monitoring the respiratory illness outbreak caused by COVID-19. Up-to-date health alerts are published regularly and can be found on the Department’s website.
The Department has also published a collection of resources for the general public, health professionals and industry about coronavirus, including translated resources.
- Prime Minister’s statement from National Cabinet
- AHPPC Statement, April 21, on Recommendations to Residential Aged Care Facilities
- Advice for isolating workers who work at multiple aged care facilities
- Webinar on learnings from COVID-19 outbreaks (date TBC)
- More details around available workforce support