Protecting Older Australians - COVID-19 Update 27 May
What’s new: Administration of seasonal influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, single site funding support for COVID-19 impacted areas of Victoria and updated advice for NSW, ACT, QLD, SA and TAS residential aged care facilities.
Administration of seasonal influenza and COVID-19 vaccines
Providers are asked to urgently review this letter from the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly providing the strong recommendation that residents and staff in residential aged care settings be vaccinated as quickly as possible against COVID-19, and advice provided by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that the 14-day interval between influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations can be shortened.
Please read the letter and brief your co-workers and residents accordingly.
Single site funding support for COVID-19 impacted areas of Victoria
Australian Government grant funding is now available to support residential aged care providers to implement single site workforce arrangements in Greater Melbourne in accordance with the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer’s declaration.
The grant funding will be available for out of pocket costs incurred during an initial two week period, from 27 May 2021 to 10 June 2021. If the hotspot declaration is extended, these arrangements will also be extended. Providers are asked to adjust their rosters and ensure staff are only working at one residential aged care facility during this time.
A reminder that employers should ensure their workers are not financially disadvantaged during this period and that they continue to receive the income they may have received from other residential aged care providers. Where this results in additional out of pocket costs for the primary employer, reimbursement can be sought through the grant application process. The Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) grant opportunity remains open until 30 December 2021.
In addition to funding support, providers can also access guidance on practical implementation of single site arrangements, including employee relations expertise, through the Guiding Principles Support Hub website or hotline on 1800 491 793.
Updated advice for NSW, ACT, QLD, SA and TAS residential aged care facilities
For all Victorian residential aged care facilities the following requirements apply from 11:59pm 27 May 2021:
Enhanced visitor restrictions
No visitors are permitted into aged care or other sensitive settings, except for end-of-life reasons or other specified purposes.
End of life care visits
- Two visitors at a time
- Do not have to be from the same household.
- No time limits.
- No specified purpose required.
- No daily limit.
- A group may exceed the “two visitors at a time” rule if dependents of a visitor are in the group and care for the dependents cannot be arranged.
- Provide essential care or support for the resident’s immediate physical or emotional wellbeing.
- Is the parent, carer or guardian of a person under the age of 18.
- As a nominated person (as defined in the Mental Health Act 2014).
- As an interpreter or to provide language support.
- To learn to support the patient or resident’s care upon discharge.
Restriction for specified visits
- Two visitors at one time
- Do not have to be from the same household
- No time limits.
- Specified purpose required.
- No more than two visitors per day, including dependents.
- A group may exceed the “two visitors at a time” rule if dependents of a visitor (or patient in hospital) are in the group and care for the dependents cannot be arranged.
Recommendation for remote / electronic visits:
- Providing interpreter services or acting as a nominated person should be provided remotely unless it is not practicable to do so.
- Other care and support should be provided remotely if reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances (e.g. phone call support for someone with hearing difficulties would not be appropriate).
Visits from prospective residents are not permitted.
Enhanced face mask requirements
- All visitors are required to wear face masks when in an indoor space or in any outdoor space when a visitor cannot maintain 1.5m distance from all other persons (except those with whom their ordinarily reside or an intimate partner).
- All workers are required to wear face masks when in any indoor space (regardless of whether accessible to visitors or residents) and in any outdoor space where the worker is engaged in face-to-face contact with a resident or visitor. Use of eye protection (face shields are preferred) when treating COVID negative patient/residents.
- Enhanced screening and testing on admission or return to facility from leave residents found to have visited listed exposure sites – to be tested and managed as at risk COVID until results known.
- Enhanced focus on screening visitors and staff and continuing daily workforce attestations.
- Restricting visitors and staff found to have visited exposure sites until they have returned a negative test result.
- Tier 3 PPE for low risk suspected COIVD-19 and high-risk suspected COVID-19 residents as per PPE guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19) PPE guidance for RACF Factsheet.
- Where practicable, care facility workers should be limited to working at one facility.
- Student clinical placements permitted in all settings but restricted from providing care/being exposed to high-risk SCOVID and confirmed COVID patients. Students restricted to one campus/site only.
It is anticipated geographic locations and exposure sites will be updated in coming days. Please monitor the DHHS coronavirus website regularly.
Australian Capital Territory
Please see the updated alert from the ACT Chief Health Officer regarding the COVID-19 situation in other Australian states and territories.
- Current geographical areas of risk for COVID-19 transmission in Australia are (see full list of affected LGAs):
- Greater Melbourne LGAs
- City of Greater Bendigo
- Anyone who has been in a geographical area of risk (see above) should not visit or work in high-risk settings, including residential aged care facilities, for 14 days since leaving these areas.
- A Public Health Direction mandating quarantine for individuals who are close contacts of COVID-19 cases remains in place. This may include people who attended specific venues on the same date/time as a confirmed case; for example, in Victoria.
- If people are excluded from visiting or working in a high-risk setting, but are seeking to visit on compassionate grounds, or to work because they are deemed essential (e.g. someone with expertise that cannot be sourced elsewhere):
- If they are not in quarantine under a Public Health Direction, this may be considered following a risk assessment. ACT Health can assist with the risk assessment, if required.
- If they are in quarantine under a Public Health Direction, they will need to apply for an exemption from ACT Health by emailing COVID.exemptions [at] act.gov.au
New South Wales
The screening advice for residential aged and home care services has been updated for 27 May 2021.
- Residential aged care facilities - https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/aged-care.aspx
- Home care service providers facilities - https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/home-care-latest-advice.aspx
The key messages for this update are:
- The state of Victoria is currently considered an affected area and there are new places of high concern.
- Staff should be excluded if in the last 14 days they have been in:
- Any staff who have been to Greater Melbourne or the City of Greater Bendigo in the last 14 days (excluding the airport alone) must wear a surgical mask in the facility
- Visitors should be excluded from visiting residential aged care facilities who in the previous 14 days have been in:
- Victorian places of high concern
- Greater Melbourne (including the City of Whittlesea) or the City of Greater Bendigo.
From 1am AEST 28 May 2021, all of Victoria will be declared a COVID-19 Hotspot. Anyone who has been in an interstate area of concern or a hotspot including Victoria in the last 14 days cannot enter a residential aged care facility.
Please refer to the QLD Government website for more information about exceptions to this Direction.
Effective 8.25pm 24 May 2021, those who have visited or have travelled from the public exposure sites listed on the Victorian Department of Health website are subject to restrictions on entering a residential aged care facility.
For more information on exposure sites and specific requirements, visit the SA Government page.
Visits to residential aged care facilities are not permitted if a person has been in an area or premises identified as medium or high-risk for COVID-19 in the previous 14 days. For more information please visit the Tasmanian Government website.
State and territory aged care COVID-19 information
As the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly, aged care providers are reminded to stay up to date on visitor restrictions, PPE requirements and other measures relating to COVID-19 in aged care, from their relevant state or territory website below:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Aged care providers are asked to ensure they have a sufficient supply of PPE, to use their own supply of PPE first and to request extra supply as and when needed. If you urgently need PPE and cannot source it, please submit an online application. The application will need to be completed for your request to be considered. The Commonwealth is prioritising requests for PPE from the National Medical Stockpile to aged care services that are most in need.
Further information and advice
Please visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for information and resources to assist in preparing and managing a COVID-19 outbreak, including what to do in the first 24 hours of an outbreak in a residential aged care facility.