Operational update – Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (30 September 2020 at 5pm)
A media release from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre giving an update on how it is working to protect senior Australians from COVID-19.
The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre continues to provide the robust response effort required to protect our most vulnerable senior Australians living in aged care from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- There have been zero aged care facilities in Category 1 for more than a month. There were 13 facilities in the Response Centre’s ‘high risk’ category in early August when the Centre first began operating.
In addition, there were 119 facilities on the Response Centre’s ‘Category 2’ list of facilities at risk, this has reduced to 2.
- The work of the Response Centre has also seen the number of facilities with outbreaks continue to fall.
- There were 129 facilities with active outbreaks at the peak of the emergency – that number has now more than halved to 52.
- The total number of aged care outbreaks since 1 January 2020 is 175.
- There are currently 147 active cases in aged care in Victoria, less than ten per cent of the peak of 2075 in August.
- There have been a cumulative total of 4618 cases in aged care in Victoria.
- 1962 residents
- 2027 staff
- 629 close contacts which are neither staff nor residents of the facility
- Total number of deaths associated with aged care outbreaks in Victoria is 632.
- There were 2 aged care related deaths reported.
- The Response Centre’s robust infection prevention and control efforts continue to be a priority across metropolitan and regional facilities:
- Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel have visited a total of 592 aged care facilities to date.
- The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has conducted a total of 236 ‘spot checks’ on aged care facilities.
- Western Health have also provided assistance in prevention measures at 37 aged care facilities.
- 40 personnel from Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) have completed 174 visits to 80 facilities.
- 2 National Aged Care Emergency Response (NACER) teams, totalling 11 personnel are currently filling a number of roles across the sector, including nursing, personal care, and cleaning.
- 6 interstate clinical and support personnel in one team are currently deployed from Western Australia.
- 101 Residential Aged Care Assistants and Safety Observers have been deployed by the Response Centre to 24 facilities.
Since late July 2020, VACRC has ensured that every residential aged care facility that has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 has received an immediate, intensive intervention in regard to PPE and infection control practices. The effect of the initial intervention is monitored and a facility will receive additional support as needed. To date, 175 facilities have had an outbreak and, in the vast majority of cases, the additional training and support has resulted in control of the outbreak. A small number of facilities have had ongoing infections that has necessitated a more intensive intervention. This intervention may include a revisit from the DHHS Infection Control team or from another clinician with relevant expertise.
There are more than 600 facilities in Victoria that have not had a COVID-19 outbreak. Again, in late July, VACRC began a comprehensive program to ensure that these facilities underwent an assessment of their infection control and PPE preparedness and to deliver training to staff. The majority of these visits were undertaken by clinically trained personnel. To date, these teams have provided an assessment report and delivered training to 631 facilities in the metropolitan and regional areas across Victoria, representing 96% of facilities.
In the course of the training, two nominated ‘champions’ in each facility receive additional training to equip them as local trainers in infection control and PPE use.
The visits have identified a subset of facilities that require more intensive intervention and the VACRC has coordinated additional onsite visits for approximately 100 facilities to date. The additional visits have been undertaken by clinical experts drawn from the DHHS, local Health Services, Epworth Hospital, AUSMAT and the ADF.
To stabilise and strengthen the Victorian aged care workforce during the pandemic, the Commonwealth has funded a surge workforce to assist aged care facility managers with more than 31,000 shifts being filled.
- 22,339 shifts filled by Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) staff.
- 5768 shifts filled by Healthcare Australia staff.
- 1898 shifts filled by 96 Mable contractors.
- 601 roles filled by Aspen Medical staff including Clinical First Responder deployments.
- 495 shifts filled by 35 HealthX staff.
- 426 shifts filled by 59 Torrens staff.
The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is a joint arrangement between the federal and state governments, bringing together more than 150 staff from 28 agencies.
Its priorities are focused on:
- Care and safety of residents
- Safety of staff
- Unifying effort across agencies
- Rapid identification and prioritisation of outbreaks
- Rapid response and intervention
- Prevention of outbreaks
- Effective communication and engagement
- Preservation of the health care system
Estia Keilor Outbreak
The current outbreak at Estia Keilor began after a resident was discharged from Footscray Hospital after a two-day admission. While in hospital the resident came into contact with a patient from another residential aged care facility who was asymptomatic but infectious for COVID-19. The Estia resident tested negative prior to leaving hospital.
The asymptomatic patient remaining in hospital was subsequently found to be positive for COVID-19 in the course of Footscray Hospital’s routine screening of residential aged care facility patients.
The patient who had returned to Estia was then tested as part of the contact tracing process and was found to be infected.
The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre has thoroughly investigated the source of the outbreak. Initial findings show transfer protocols were followed.
The case highlights the fact that many elderly patients with COVID-19 show no symptoms or signs related to their COVID-19 infection, but they can still be infectious. It is also demonstrates that a negative test only indicates that an individual is not infectious at the time of the testing – an individual with a negative test may be in the incubation period and subsequently become swab positive soon after the negative result.
A number of urgent measures to respond to the outbreak were taken by the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre:
- A rapid response team from Melbourne Health was deployed immediately as part of the outbreak management process.
- All PPE and Infection Control Procedures were reviewed by three onsite infection prevention and control nurses.
- Some residents were immediately transferred to hospital for clinical reasons; a number of residents were moved to other facilities to ensure that there was sufficient space at Estia Keilor to safely manage the remaining residents.
- Melbourne Health continue to provide additional expertise to support in this outbreak.
The DHHS Public Health Unit and the VACRC have continued to liaise closely each day concerning the ongoing needs of residents and staff and to ensure the sustained implementation of the outbreak plan in the facility.
The facility management have been fully cooperative with VACRC in managing this outbreak, including actively communicating with families and providing counselling for families, residents and staff.
About the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre:
VACRC Media – communications [at] vacrc.gov.au
Victorian Aged Care Response Centre contact
Contact information for the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.