Protecting Older Australians – COVID-19 Update 3 August 2021

In this issue: Single site funding support for COVID-19 impacted areas; QLD Health – Lockdown extension; Victoria – Restrictions on visitors to RACFs; Victoria – VACRC Prevention – Outbreak Plan Improvement; SA Vaccination clinics for RACF staff and ACT CHO update.

Date published:
Health sector

Single site funding support for COVID-19 impacted areas

The Australian Government is closely monitoring the situation across the country, particularly in Queensland. New South Wales and Victoria.

Single site funding support remains for Greater Melbourne and Greater Sydney areas as announced on 30 July 2021 and is also in place for the South East Queensland area. Workers at residential aged care facilities in these areas are asked to limit their work to a single facility to reduce the risk of transmission and protect workers and residents.

Providers in these areas are asked to adjust their rosters and ensure staff are only working at one residential aged care facility within this region during this time. Workers are encouraged to speak with their primary employer and look to work all shifts during this period with the residential aged care provider where they were working the most hours prior to the outbreak. To the greatest extent possible, the employer should seek to match any hours no longer being worked with a secondary employer to ensure the worker is not financially disadvantaged. It is important workers also retain the security of any secondary employment.

The use of agency staff is permitted but should be limited, while still ensuring an adequate standard of care for residents. Where required, agency workers should be booked in shifts and extra precaution should be taken to ensure the risk of transmission is minimised. In all hotspot locations, facilities should take additional steps to minimise transmission risks where possible – screening, testing, PPE usage, and tracking staff movements.

Where these arrangements result in additional workforce expenses, providers are able to seek reimbursement from the Australian Government through the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant. The SACWIC grant opportunity remains open until 31 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.

QLD Health – Lockdown extension

The Qld Premier and Chief Health Officer advised that the South-East Queensland lockdown has been extended until 4pm Sunday 8 August.

This means that visitors are restricted to residential aged care facilities within the affected LGAs. These restrictions include:

  • Visitors
    • No personal visitors – including care and support visitors – are allowed to enter
    • Only people providing an essential purpose will be allowed to enter
    • End of life visits will still be allowed
    • Anyone entering a facility must wear a single use surgical face mask.
  • Residents
    • May only leave the facility to receive health care, attend a funeral or for an emergency or compassionate reason.

For residential aged care facilities located in all other non-restricted LGAs, visitors, staff or volunteers at a residential aged care facility should not be anyone who:

  • is unwell
  • has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or asked to quarantine
  • has returned from overseas in the last 14 days (excluding safe travel zone countries)
  • has had contact with a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • has visited a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days or since the hotspot was declared (whichever is shorter)
  • has visited an interstate exposure venue in the last 14 days unless an exemption has been granted for an end of life visit
  • has been in an interstate area of concern in the last 14 days or since the identified start date (whichever is shorter), unless you fit into one of the categories of people who are allowed to enter a facility with a negative COVID-19 test
  • has been tested for COVID-19 and is waiting for the result (except for tests due to surveillance testing obligations)
  • has COVID-19 symptoms of fever (37.5 degrees or more), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, runny nose, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or fatigue.

For full details read the Residential Aged Care Direction (No.3) and stay up to date with advice on the Qld Health website.

Victoria – Restrictions on visitors to RACFs

The Victoria CHO has issued Care Facilities Directions (No 39) with effect from 11:59pm on Thursday 29 July 2021, the changes include:

Visits that provide care and support for the resident’s physical or emotional wellbeing (including dementia and mental health supports) and visits to prevent harm due to social isolation are now allowed.

This is in addition to visits for other reasons which include:

  • To provide end of life support
  • As a nominated person under the Mental Health Act
  • As a nominated person providing support for a resident living with Dementia
  • To provide interpreter or informal language support
  • For learning to support the resident’s care upon discharge

The requirements that apply to visits are:

  • A maximum of two visitors at one time.
  • Do not have to be from the same household.
  • No time limits.
  • For visits for reasons other than end of life care, 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.

There is no daily limit on the number of visitors for end of life care visits. End of life means where a resident’s death is expected within 28 days or less.

See further details in the guidance for residential aged care facilities and visit the Victorian Department of Health website for more information.

Victoria – VACRC Prevention - Outbreak Plan Improvement (POPI)

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC) Prevention – Outbreak Plan Improvement (POPI) program is a collaborative process helping Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs) to respond rapidly to any future COVID-19 outbreaks. POPI focuses on supporting RACFs to identify and address any gaps in their COVID-19 Outbreak Management Plan (OMP).  The VACRC Prevention team have now worked with over 80 RACFs under the POPI program. All the RACFs indicated they found these discussions productive and informative and most made changes to their OMP as a result.

POPI discussions are conducted via video link. A copy of questions is provided in advance, but no specific preparation is required. Discussions emphasise the need for readily accessible resources and information in an outbreak. Various aspects of planning are covered, with a strong focus on critical content of the OMP, consultation and collaboration with relevant agencies and stakeholders, workforce planning, IPC, cohorting, staff training and supplies.

All RACFs receive written feedback including recommended actions to improve their preparedness. They also receive a copy of the VACRC Good Practice Guide to Outbreak Management Plan.

We will be inviting a range of RACFs to participate in POPI over coming months. VACRC has the capacity to offer some additional POPI sessions in this time as well. If you are interested or would like to discuss POPI, please contact us on or call  Preeti Khanna on 0488 124 848.

SA Vaccination clinics for RACF staff

Dedicated vaccination clinics have opened in Highgate ParkEnfield and Medindie to provide COVID-19 Pfizer vaccinations to residential aged care facility (RACF) staff, regardless of age.

All RACF staff are eligible, including health practitioners, personal care workers, kitchen staff, cleaners and administrative staff.

Staff are required to provide evidence of their employment by way of a payslip, work identification or a letter from their employer.

For more information on eligibility, visit Booking your vaccination appointment.

ACT CHO Update

The ACT CHO has issued an updated alert on 31 July 2021 regarding the COVID-19 situation.

In summary, a new Stay at Home requirement has been introduced in response to the COVID-19 situation in South East Queensland. Due to high transmissibility of the Delta strain, the potential for several undetected chains of transmission, and an anticipated large number of exposure locations, this requirement is being applied retrospectively to all travellers who spent time in the affected areas on or after 21 July and have entered, or intend to enter the ACT. See the ACT COVID-19 website for more information.

Anyone who is under a stay-at-home requirement should not visit or work in a high-risk setting unless it is for an approved essential purpose. Anyone entering an aged care facility to work or visit should wear a mask while in indoor areas of the premises. This does not apply to residents.

The COVID-19 situation can change rapidly and as such, advice for high-risk settings is subject to change regularly. ACT Health will continue to keep you updated through these Chief Health Officer alerts

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