Thank you for continuing to stay up to date with the latest information via this newsletter.
This edition includes an update on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines as well as information on the vaccine for residential aged care facilities (RACFs). The Department of Health has published a collection of resources for you to share through your networks and channels. The resources include; a newsletter article for providers and workers, an information sheet for providers and workers, social media, a poster, an information sheet for residents and their families and representatives, and frequently asked questions. The Department of Health will update this information regularly as new information becomes available.
Masks are now mandatory in Victorian RACFs read more about this direction from the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services in this edition.
This edition also contains information about a new COVID-19 Allied Health group therapy program, as well as updated directions for Western Australian providers, and the latest visitation restrictions for aged care providers in New South Wales and South Australia.
There is also a reminder that the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant Opportunity remains open until 30 June 2021.
Details about the launch of the Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line and an OPAN webinar on the Charter of Rights are also provided.
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.
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-19 Vaccine Safety and effectiveness
The Australian Government aims to have as many people as possible vaccinated against COVID-19 in 2021.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) rigorous assessment process will ensure all approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. All vaccines are thoroughly tested for safety before they are approved for use in Australia. This includes careful analysis of clinical trial data, ingredients, chemistry, manufacturing and other factors. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been provisionally approved by the TGA for people 16 years and older. Pfizer will be required to continue providing information to the TGA on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine.
Provisional approval of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is currently anticipated in February.
Want to know more about how COVID-19 vaccines are tested and approved? Check out the video on our website.
You can also talk to your GP or a health professional about the COVID-19 vaccines and why vaccination is an important part of keeping the community safe and healthy.
TGA advises no specific risk from Pfizer/BioNTech for elderly people
After a recent assessment by the European Medicines Agency Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, the TGA has concluded that there is no specific risk of vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in elderly people. Elderly people can receive this vaccine and there is no cap on the upper age limit.
You can read more about this on the TGA's website.
Keep up to date with trusted information
The Department of Health understands that potentially incorrect and harmful information about the COVID-19 vaccination program is being distributed to residential aged care facilities by people not connected to those facilities.
The Australian Government urges aged care providers and staff to obtain trusted and reliable information. You can find this information and resources, including translated materials, on our COVID-19 vaccines website, and subscribe to receive the COVID-19 Vaccines Updates.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information for residential aged care facilities
The department has published new information for residential aged care facilities and workers about the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
On our website you can download:
- newsletter article for providers and workers
- information sheet for providers and workers
- social media tiles and messages
- information sheet for residents and their families and representatives
- frequently asked questions.
We will update our website regularly as new information becomes available. In particular, further detail and operational information will be provided soon on:
- the vaccine rollout, including information about what will happen on the day of vaccination
- obtaining and recording consent and registering vaccinations
- vaccination for family, representatives and carers who are regular visitors and provide key support to residents in RACFs
- Primary Health Networks (PHN) and their role in the COVID-19 vaccine role out to RACFs.
Masks mandatory in Victorian RACFs
The Victorian Government has confirmed that masks are mandatory for all residential aged care facility staff, effective immediately.
All clinical and non-clinical staff and workers must wear a surgical mask at all times, no matter where they work in the facility.
A direction fact sheet has been provided by the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services.
Workers delivering services for Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and Home Care Package (HCP) providers must also wear a mask when providing care in an indoor space.
The above advice is also applicable for the provision of both Residential and Home Based Services delivered by providers of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program.
Further information regarding is available at on the Victorian Government website or please contact the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC) 1800 413 957.
Allied Health group therapy program in RACFs
Residential aged care facilities who have had 2 or more cases of COVID-19 (as of 23 October 2020) are eligible for an allied health group therapy program. The program aims to improve physical functioning of residents who are at risk of deconditioning due to COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Funding is available for twice weekly therapy for up to 26 weeks.
Group therapy sessions will be led by a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or exercise physiologist. Primary Health Networks(PHNs) will be commissioning allied health providers to do this work in late February or early March 2021. The states with eligible facilities include Victoria, NSW and Tasmania.
Please see the fact sheet for further information.
National review of COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian RACFs
Following announcement of the National Review of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities in late December 2020, the review is underway and is being undertaken by Professor Lyn Gilbert AO and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly.
The reviewers are planning to conduct an online survey and a series of online workshops beginning later this month and want to hear a range of views and perspectives about experiences related to the pandemic. Please stay tuned for more information coming soon about how you can be involved. In the meantime, please see the terms of reference (please use Google Chrome) for the review.
Updated directions to WA providers
The Western Australian Government has introduced a five day lockdown in 'affected areas' including; Metropolitan Perth, Peel and South West regions following a hotel quarantine worker testing positive to COVID-19. This lockdown includes updated advice to aged care providers in Western Australia (Visitors to Residential Aged Care Facilities Directions No.5). It is critical that aged care providers and their staff familiarise themselves with these directions.
Effective immediately, a person must not enter, or remain at a residential aged care facility in the affected areas unless:
- the person is an officer, employee or contractor of the residential aged care facility
- the person's presence at the premises is for the purposes of providing goods or services that are necessary for the effective operation of the residential aged care facility
- the person's presence at the premises is for the purposes of providing health, medical, or pharmaceutical services to a resident of the residential aged care facility, whether the goods or services are provided for consideration or on a voluntary basis
- the person's presence at the premises is for the purposes of end of life support for a resident of the residential aged care facility
- the person's presence at the premises is required for the purposes of emergency management, law enforcement or otherwise responding to an emergency
- the person's presence at the premises is required for the purposes of performing a function (including exercising a power or performing a duty) under a written law by an officer, employee or contractor of a public authority
- the person's presence at the premises is in the person's capacity as a prospective resident of the residential aged care facility
- the person is a legal practitioner whose presence on the premises is for the purpose of providing legal services in relation to wills estate planning to a resident of a residential aged care facility.
However, if you have returned from overseas or been informed you are a close contact in the last 14 days or you have any symptoms you may not enter a residential aged care facility.
In addition to the Residential Aged Care directions aged care providers in the affected areas must also follow general public restrictions including the mandatory wearing of masks.
Aged care facilities outside of the affected areas are required to continue following the Visitors to Residential Aged Care Facilities Directions No. 4.
It is critical to stay up to date with advice and Directions on the WA Government website and to check for these updates regularly.
Aged care providers are reminded they need to urgently contact both their local PHU and the Commonwealth Department of Health at agedcareCOVIDcases@health.gov.au in response to a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a resident or staff member. A Commonwealth case manager will be assigned to you and a range of supports will be made available to help you manage the outbreak. The PHU will also advise and assist you with testing arrangements.
Providers are also 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 for access to PPE from the National Medical Stockpile. 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
The Western Australia PHU contact number is 13 268 43 (13 COVID).
Please visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for information and resources to assist in preparing and managing a COVID-19 outbreak.
Updated NSW and SA directions on aged care restrictions
NSW Health advice for both Residential Aged Care Facilities and Home Care Service Providers has been updated as of 4 February 2021. Aged care providers are encouraged to ensure they read the full advice.
Key updates include:
- All staff and visitors must wear a surgical mask inside RACFs.
- Western Australian locations have been added to the Areas of Concern – Western Australian Locations visited by confirmed cases or the Perth, Peel or South West Regions of Western Australia since 25 January 2021.
- Victorian venues of concern have been added to the Areas of Concern - Since 29 January 2021.
- There are no Areas of Increased Testing identified in NSW.
- For NSW healthcare facilities the New Zealand Hotspot locations have been removed, but contact tracing locations of interest in New Zealand remain.
South Australia Health's Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 26) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 came into effect on 2 February.
No person who has who travelled from any place other than a low community transmission zone in the last 14 days is permitted to enter or remain on the premises of a residential aged care facility in South Australia. This includes:
- Western Australia: effective 2.04 pm 2 February, people arriving in South Australia from Western Australia who have not been in a prohibited zone (Perth Region, Peel Region, and South West Region) on or after 26 January 2021, are permitted to enter and remain on the premises of a residential aged care facility after receiving written confirmation of a negative COVID-19 Day 1 test.
- New South Wales: effective 12.01am 31 January, people arriving in South Australia who have been in the Greater Sydney Region (as defined by the Greater Sydney Commission Act 2015 NSW), NSW Central Coast Council or Wollongong City Council in the previous 14 days, are permitted to enter a residential aged care facility after receiving written confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test.
- New Zealand: effective 10.15pm 31 January 2021, people arriving in South Australia having arrived from New Zealand on or after the commencement of this Direction, or who have been in New Zealand on or after 14 January 2021, are permitted to enter a residential aged care facility after receiving written confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test.
Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant Opportunity
A reminder that the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant Opportunity remains open until 30 June 2021 for applications from Providers located in hotspots or high risk locations. Funding is available for those providers who experienced out of pocket costs associated with supplementing staff pay or offering additional training during the implementation of single site workforce arrangements or costs associated with sick leave for their workers.
The SACWIC Grant has been made available in the following locations for the relevant activity period. Funding can only be reimbursed for costs incurred during the period identified below:
|State||Local Government Area/Suburb||SACWIC Grant Activity Period|
|New South Wales||Northern Beaches LGA||18 December 2020 – 29 January 2021|
|Victoria||Greater Melbourne LGA||15 July 2020 – 20 November 2020|
|Mitchel Shire LGA|
|Brighton||31 December 2020 – 29 January 2021|
|Queensland||Brisbane LGA||8 January 2021 – 22 January 2021|
|Moreton Bay LGA|
When applying for SACWIC grant funding, eligible providers must provide the following documentation:
- SACWIC Application Spreadsheet.
- Declaration of supernumerary hours worked.
- Supporting documentation as listed in section 3.1 of the Grant Opportunity Guidelines (version 5).
For more support in applying for SACWIC grant funding, you can review the Single Site Grant Funds Webinar Presentation delivered by the Department of Health in conjunction with ACSA and LASA, contact the Grants Hub at Grant Connect, or phone 1300 484 145 for urgent enquiries.
The Australian Government is encouraging providers and workers to continue limiting mobility where possible. For guidance on practical implementation of single site arrangements, providers can visit the Guiding Principles Support Hub website or phone the hotline on 1800 491 793 (free call). Providers are also encouraged to take steps to understand your workforce by developing a register for recording each workers mobility and their skills and training.
Further advice on how to prepare for and implement a single site workforce arrangement can be found in the National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan. This guidance will support providers to prepare in the event single site arrangements are required again in the future.
Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line
Invitation: Online launch of the Older Persons Multilingual COVID-19 support line.
The Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing is pleased to invite you to the launch of the Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line. The support line is funded by the Australian Department of Health, and is an Australia-wide initiative that provides in-language information and support associated with COVID-19, and referrals to appropriate services and programs for older Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds.
The support line will be available in Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Italian, Mandarin and Vietnamese. All calls are free, 2:00pm - 5:00pm (Melbourne time) Monday to Fridays (except public holidays).
The launch will give you an overview of the Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line, how it can benefit your clients and their families, and ways you can promote it to your networks.
Wednesday 10 February 2021
12:30 - 1:00pm (Melbourne time)
This is an online event
Register to attend
The Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line is funded by the Australian Department Of Health and is a joint initiative of the Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing (supported by Benetas), Spectrum, All Graduates and the PICAC Alliance.
The initiative complements the Older Persons COVID-19 Support line which is supported by: COTA, Dementia Australia, OPAN, National Seniors, and the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council.
OPAN webinar on the Aged Care Charter of Rights
Whether it is in their home or a residential aged care facility, every older person receiving aged care is entitled to a unique set of rights called the Charter of Aged Care Rights. What are those rights, why do they matter, and what can each of us to do ensure older people's rights are respected?
The Older Persons Advocacy Network is bringing together a panel of experts for a live webinar and Q&A on February 11 to discuss how older people can exercise their rights under the Charter of Aged Care Rights, and how we can support them.
Thursday 11 February 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM AEST
This event is free.
Register to attend.
- A video describing how vaccines will be rolled out, and who they will go to first: COVID-19 vaccines – Priority rollout (animation)
- A poster about how Australians can access accurate and reliable information on the COVID-19 vaccines and the rollout strategy: COVID-19 vaccine advertising poster – How to stay informed
- A video describing how vaccines work: COVID-19 vaccines – How vaccines work
- A video describing the Therapeutic Goods Administration's process of how they assess and approve vaccines: COVID-19 vaccines – TGA approval process
- Weekly data snapshot: COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian residential aged care facilities.