Please share this newsletter with your colleagues and workforce, particularly your communications teams and encourage them to subscribe for future updates. You can view past editions of the Protecting Older Australians Newsletter as well as other announcements for the aged care sector on the department's website.
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.
COVID-positive staff must not work in residential aged care facilities
Approved providers of aged care are reminded that staff who are COVID-19 positive must not work in a residential aged care facility.
COVID-positive staff must isolate in accordance with requirements in the relevant public health order in each state/territory. Where COVID-positive staff are well and able to undertake supporting functions for the facility from their own home, this is supported.
On 1 January 2022, the Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth Department of Health, Professor Paul Kelly, approved interim guidance for providers when determining whether to place work restrictions on aged care workers. The Guidance was updated on 5 January 2022 to take account of the updated advice on the definition of contacts issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
The guidance, titled Commonwealth Permissions and Restrictions for Workers in Aged Care – Interim Guidance, provides a process to support safe assessment and decision making when determining whether to place work permissions/restrictions on a worker after a COVID-19 exposure or in an outbreak.
Where a worker is a COVID-19 case contact (whether exposed in the community or in the workplace), approved providers should consult this guidance in deciding how to respond. Any decisions regarding work permissions and restrictions for the worker should be accurately documented, and all decisions should be regularly reviewed by the provider in light of changing local circumstances.
In all circumstances, providers are expected to have in place the full range of Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures to minimise and manage the risk of transmission of COVID-19. At the same time, it is acknowledged that risk cannot be eliminated and exposures will occur.
Any aged care provider that is knowingly requiring COVID-positive staff to work on-site will be referred to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission) and relevant state authorities for regulatory action.
The Commission takes very seriously the safety and wellbeing of all aged care residents. Where a provider places residents at risk by failing to have or activate an up-to-date outbreak management plan and/or responds slowly or poorly to an exposure or outbreak, the Commission takes compliance action proportionate to the assessed risk.
Reminder: Home Care Package providers can access grant funding for COVID-19 vaccination support
The Home Care Packages (HCP) Program COVID-19 Vaccination Support Grant (Grant), has been extended and now closes on 29 April 2022. Approved home care providers can apply now to cover costs incurred between 1 July 2021 and 30 June 2022.
Grants will be offered at a provider level (not for each service outlet) with capped funding based on the number of HCP recipients in your care at 5 November 2021.
Providers can use the grant to cover costs related to:
- facilitating and encouraging workforce COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster doses
- coverage of costs for staff to take leave to get a COVID-19 vaccination or if they are sick after a COVID-19 vaccination
- collecting the COVID-19 vaccination status data of your HCP workforce, and improving data quality
- ICT-related and professional advice costs to set-up processes and systems to track and report the COVID-19 vaccination status of your HCP workforce.
The funding can be used to support your permanent and casual staff, as well as volunteers and subcontractors.
For the grant opportunity guidelines and frequently asked questions, see the Grant Opportunity (GO5216) on GrantConnect. You can also email the Department of Health for further information at Grant.ATM@health.gov.au.
Recording of webinar for NSW residential aged care providers available online
A webinar was held on the 14 January 2022 for NSW residential aged care facilities to highlight important changes to guidance on managing current COVID-19 outbreaks.
The webinar included the following presenters who talked about the current advice on managing the workforce, testing protocols, outbreak management and more:
- Chair, Frances Rice, A/g Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer
- Samantha Lavender, Office of the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer
- Lisa Peterson, A/g First Assistant Secretary, Ageing and Aged Care Group
- Dr Jan Fizzell, Senior Medical Officer, Public Health Response Branch / Office of the Chief Health Officer, NSW Department of Health.
A recording of the webinar is now available for on-demand viewing.
SA Health - Interim guidance for COVID-19 outbreak management
The SA Chief Public Health Officer approved the Information for Residential Aged Care Facilities – An interim guidance for COVID-19 outbreak management. The aim of this guidance is to provide clear recommendations to residential aged care facilities (RACFs) to reduce the impact of COVID on the health, wellbeing and social experiences of residents and staff, and on the functioning of the facility.
In particular, the document now authorises the Chief Executive (or equivalent) of the RACF, to grant work permissions during a period of quarantine to provide direct personal or nursing care. These permissions may be granted where the RACF is experiencing critical workforce shortages, to enable the safe operation of the facility and maintain the expected level of care to all residents.
The interim guidance is available on the SA Health website: Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine | SA Health.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the overall COVID-19 Strategy for Residential Aged Care Facilities, which is available as a resource document to guide individual RACFs in the prevention, preparation, management and recovery stages of responding to COVID-19 situations in South Australia (the Strategy is currently being updated to align with the interim guidelines).
Importantly, each RACF must ensure they have a comprehensive Outbreak Management Plan, developed to help staff prepare for, identify, respond to, and manage a potential outbreak, as well as to reduce the severity of an outbreak should one occur. It is critical that the RACF’s Outbreak Management Plan is reviewed, practiced and up-to-date. RACFs should refer to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s Outbreak Management Planning in Aged Care guide for practical guidance in relation to the essential requirements to be addressed.
For further information regarding COVID-19 and aged care, visit: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/covidagedcare.