Letter to aged care providers on COVID-19 preparedness
The Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Aged Care, Professor Paul Kelly together with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson, have issued a joint letter to aged care providers to provide advice in preparing your service for the upcoming Easter holiday period and the approaching winter season.
Their advice includes protective actions that your IPC Leads, staff, residents, care recipients and visitors can do to minimise the spread of COVID-19 as well as reminders on vaccination and the use of oral antiviral treatments.
Infection Control and Prevention overview
The National COVID-19 Community Protection Framework and the National Statement of Expectations on COVID-19 Management in Aged Care Settings for a COVID Safe Australia (residential aged care and in-home care service providers) steps you through strategies to manage risks when there is higher community prevalence. These include:
- maintaining high standards of IPC
- surveillance testing for staff and visitors through rapid antigen testing (RAT) and screening for symptoms and mask wearing (N95 or P2) when indoors or engaging with older people
- consulting with health practitioners and facilitating in-reach PCR testing, if required
- activating and scaling up Outbreak Management Plans.
Infection prevention and control measures should never be “set and forget” and nor should they be dependent on just one person within your service. All Staff providing close personal care in a residential aged care or in-home care setting must know how to access information and support in this area at any time. Management must have clear systems to ensure:
- IPC process oversight, audit and monitoring
- disease outbreak prevention, detection and management
- immunisation recording, antiviral therapy access and timely access to medical services
- monitoring and facilitation of staff education and competency training.
Provider IPC responsibilities
Aged care providers have an obligation to provide safe, effective and quality delivery of personal and clinical care in accordance with the requirements of the Aged Care Act 1997 (Commonwealth) and the Quality‑of-Care Principles 2014 (Commonwealth).
Effective IPC practices in each facility are assessed by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission under three of the Aged Care Quality Standards:
- Standard 3, specifically Requirement (3)(g) regarding minimisation of infection control risks
- Standard 7, specifically Requirement (3)(c) regarding the workforce competency and holding relevant qualifications and knowledge
- Standard 8, specifically Requirement (3)(c) regarding effective organisation governance systems, and Requirement (3)(d) regarding effective risk management systems and practices.
Providers must comply with the Quality Standards and that includes taking into account other recognised guidance that might be specific to the services they deliver. Updated resources and advice are available on www.health.gov.au and/or from state and territory health departments.
All aged care providers should support their workers to maintain their IPC capabilities. In residential aged care homes, the IPC lead nurse plays an important role in leading this work. Providers should support the IPC lead nurse in their role to provide advice and oversight.
The Commission's IPC oversight
The Commission has a critical role in making sure that aged care providers continue to lift and sustain their capability in IPC.
The Commission has been given additional funding to expand and enhance existing IPC oversight across its regulatory functions which is being used to:
- expand the infection control monitoring (ICM) spot check program of on-site visits to residential aged care services to observe and provide feedback on IPC practices
- deliver additional fit-for-purpose education, resources and communications both sector-wide and for targeted provider cohorts.
For more information and resources for aged care providers, visit the Commission's website.
Infection Prevention and Control Training grants available
Residential aged care providers can apply for funding to support registered and enrolled nurses to complete specialist IPC Lead Nurse training.
Support is available for up to 2 registered or enrolled nurses in each eligible residential aged care home, for costs relating to:
- fees for suitable IPC training courses
- wages for study leave
- wages for backfilling for nurses undertaking study.
This funding provides support for more nurses in residential aged care to access IPC Lead Nurse training. Highly skilled staff will ensure residential aged care homes are well prepared to prevent or manage future infectious disease outbreaks including influenza and COVID-19.
Find out more about this Grant Opportunity: Aged Care Infection Prevention and Control Training (GO5867) on the GrantConnect website.