As this is our first newsletter for 2021, we would like to wish everyone working hard to protect older Australians in their care a very Happy New Year. We would also like to remind you that this bulletin is now published weekly.
Today’s newsletter contains updated information on visitation directions for RACFs. Aged care providers and staff are urged to ensure they remain up to date with state and territory health orders, particularly as they relate to COVID-19 hotspots.
This edition includes information on surveillance testing of asymptomatic aged care staff and residents in NSW and Victorian residential aged care facilities. There is also a general reminder on accessing personal protective equipment (PPE).
We encourage you to share this newsletter with your colleagues and workforce, particularly your communications teams and encourage them to subscribe for future updates.
Please note, 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.
Updated advice on visitation restrictions for RACFs
With community transmission of COVID-19 in some jurisdictions, it is important for approved aged care providers to stay up to date with state and territory public health orders. Information for residential aged care providers and individuals explaining how the directions apply is available on state and territory government health department websites.
New South Wales Health has issued updated advice to residential aged care providers and home care providers. All staff and visitors must wear a surgical mask whilst in a RACF. All RACFs in the Northern Area of the Northern Beaches, City of Wollongong, Cumberland City Council or the Canterbury Ward of Canterbury Bankstown Council must exclude all visitors, except those performing essential caring functions. No visitors from the Northern Area of the Northern Beaches, City of Wollongong, Cumberland City Council or the Canterbury Ward of Canterbury Bankstown Council are permitted to visit RACFs.
Queensland Health has issued Aged Care Direction (No. 17) which came into effect at 1am on 4 January 2021. Additionally, in response to a positive case confirmed with the UK strain of COVID-19, additional restrictions have been put in place to protect vulnerable members of the community. Visitors are not allowed in the Metro North, Metro South and West Moreton Hospital Health Service regions for:
- residential aged care facilities
- disability accommodation services
- prisons our youth detention centres
Persons that have been in Victoria on or after 21 December 2020 are not allowed to enter a residential aged care facility unless 14 days have passed since the person was in Victoria. Employees, contractors, students, volunteers and support persons who have been in Victoria on or after 21 December 2020 may enter a residential aged care facility if the individual obtains a negative COVID-19 test in Queensland after returning from Victoria.
In South Australia the Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 21) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 came into effect on 1 January 2021. No person who has been to a prohibited location is permitted to enter or remain on the premises of a residential aged care facility in South Australia. A prohibited location means anywhere in New South Wales (NSW). Visit the Contact Tracing page to keep up to date with the latest health alerts.
Testing of asymptomatic staff and residents of NSW and Victorian residential aged care facilities
In accordance with the Victorian State Government directions, the Australian Government is continuing to support testing of asymptomatic residential aged care workers in Victoria. Testing is being undertaken by Melbourne Pathology (a subsidiary of Sonic Healthcare), as required, on a fortnightly basis for Melbourne providers and monthly for Victorian regional providers. Testing will help providers know the COVID-19 status of workers on a given day. This may also alert providers if someone is positive before further transmission or a significant outbreak occurs. Testing of asymptomatic aged care workers is currently being expedited in locations in Victoria with a heightened COVID-19 risk. Please see the testing of asymptomatic aged care workers fact sheet for further information.
Testing of asymptomatic residents is also being offered by the Australian Government as a precautionary measure in Victorian State Government defined High Exposure Risk suburbs.
General reminder on using and sourcing PPE
Consistently and safely wearing PPE is an essential measure to protect your health, and the health of the older Australians in your care. All aged care workers and providers are reminded of the need to consistently follow Commonwealth guidance, and state and territory government requirements and directions on PPE use.
Depending on the incidence of COVID-19 in individual jurisdictions and localised areas within jurisdictions, states and territories may implement more stringent requirements on when to use PPE. It is important you remain up to date with the latest Commonwealth guidance and state/territory requirements.
The directions are available on the following websites:
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
The deployment of PPE is only where commercial supply is unavailable and there is a demonstrated need or clinical advice requiring its use. 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.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has a list of PPE suppliers. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has a guide including links to national, state and territory portals which connect buyers and sellers of PPE.
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.
Residential and in home aged care services across Australia who are in a priority category can request surgical masks and P2/N95 respirator masks from the NMS. Requests for other PPE, will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and prioritised where there is an outbreak in a residential aged care facility.
Stay up to date with COVID-19 exposure locations and alerts
All approved aged care providers are urged to continue to monitor and remain up to date with the list of COVID-19 exposure sites across jurisdictions. State and territory health authorities continue to update these lists as new information becomes available. We encourage providers to ensure staff are also familiar with these lists.
- NSW case locations and alerts
- Victoria case locations and alerts
- Queensland case locations and alerts
- Updated fact sheet: Guidance on preparing for and implementing single site workforce arrangements
- Report: Weekly data snapshot on COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian Residential Aged Care
- Updated campaign resources: National COVID-19 mental health campaign.