Today’s newsletter contains information on the resources available for aged care providers covering COVID-19 preparedness.
Information on the COVIDSafe app, which was launched on Sunday, is also included in this newsletter.
As always, many thanks to you and your teams for your continued support to protect older Australians.
Information for providers on COVID-19 preparedness
We would like to remind providers of the resources that are currently available to assist with COVID-19 outbreak management.
The following information provides a summary of the CDNA’s guidance on preparing for and preventing, where possible, an outbreak of COVID-19 in a residential aged care facility.
- Prepare an Outbreak Management Plan: Preparing an outbreak management plan will help staff identify, respond to and manage a potential COVID-19 outbreak; protect the health of staff and residents, and reduce the severity and duration of outbreaks if they occur. At a minimum, facilities must identify a dedicated staff member to plan, coordinate and manage logistics in an outbreak setting as well as communicate and liaise with the state/territory health department.
- Education: For staff, residents and their families it is vital to inform their behaviour and help manage the potential occurrence for ongoing transmission in an outbreak setting. Prompt and clear information needs to be provided to residents and families regarding the outbreak including respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, hand hygiene and restrictions on visitation if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. Staff should be informed, and supported, to exclude themselves from work when they have any kind of respiratory illness and to notify the facility if they were confirmed to have COVID-19. The principle underlying staff and visitors staying away from the facility if they are unwell should be reinforced by placing signage at all entry points to the facility.
- Workforce Management: Facilities should have a staff contingency plan in the event of an outbreak where staff may need to isolate or quarantine from work for a prolonged period until cleared to return to work. The workforce management plan should be able to cover a 20 to 30% staff absentee rate. Developing and maintaining a contact list for casual staff members or external nursing agencies is essential to timely activation of a surge workforce should an outbreak occur. Leave planning should also consider the nature of the pandemic and current outbreaks.
- Staff Education and Training: Facilities are responsible for ensuring their staff are adequately trained and competent in all aspects of outbreak management prior to an outbreak. Staff should know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in order to identify and respond quickly to a potential outbreak. Additionally, all staff (including casual, domestic, hospitality and volunteer workers) need to understand the infection control guidelines and be competent in implementing these measures during an outbreak.
- Consumable Stocks: Facilities should ensure that they hold adequate stock levels of all consumable materials required during an outbreak, including: personal protective equipment (gloves, gowns, masks, eyewear), hand hygiene products (alcohol-based hand rub, liquid soap, hand towel), diagnostic materials (swabs) and cleaning supplies (detergent and disinfectant products). Facilities should have an effective policy in place to obtain additional stock from suppliers as needed.
Further information can be found in the national guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care facilities developed by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA).
Please also refer to the fact sheet on outbreak management in residential aged care facilities.
The new COVIDSafe app is now available and is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we can find the virus.
The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The app helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
The COVIDSafe app speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. This means you’ll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing on the virus to your family, friends and other people in the community.
State and territory health officials can only access app information if someone tests positive and agrees to the information in their phone being uploaded. The health officials can only use the app information to help alert those who may need to quarantine or get tested.
The COVIDSafe app is the only contact trace app approved by the Australian Government.
More information about the app can be found on the department’s website.
Advice for aged care workers who work across multiple facilities
Some aged care workers may work at more than one aged care service. Where this occurs, workers must follow the guidance on when they can and cannot work as well as good hygiene and PPE practices to manage the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Providers should follow the advice issued by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 22 April 2020 in relation to screening of people entering residential aged care facilities. This advice states that a key strategy to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to aged care residents is to screen staff and visitors on entry and to ensure that other practices are in place including handwashing, interpersonal distancing and cleaning.
If there is an outbreak in an aged care service, the local state or territory public health unit will be responsible for investigating and managing the outbreak and it is important for providers and staff to follow their directions.
Workers can seek advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman on rights and responsibilities at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Further details of upcoming aged care COVID-19 outbreak management webinar