Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) statement on the national COVID-19 response for residential aged care facilities
AHPPC recognised early in the COVID-19 pandemic that residents of aged care facilities were particularly vulnerable, and at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Accordingly, the health and wellbeing of this population has been in the deliberations of the AHPPC throughout the pandemic.
A statement released by AHPPC on 22 August 2020 identifies a number of key national statements and guidelines reviewed and endorsed by the AHPPC relating to aged care. The full statement can be found here.
To further strengthen preparedness for rapid response to future COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care, National Cabinet agreed to the development of joint Commonwealth–state/territory plans to boost aged care preparedness and rapid response.
In addition and to further complement emergency response planning, a guide to the establishment of an aged care health emergency response operations centre has been developed. This is based on lessons learned from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre and COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care across the country.
Reinforcement of Australia’s aged care sector with additional funding
The Australian Government will scale up aged care support programs in Victoria and across Australia with an additional $171.5 million to boost a new COVID-19 response plan agreed by all states and territories at National Cabinet on 21 August 2020.
Read the full announcement from the Prime Minister on the additional funding here.
National Aged Care Emergency Response Program
The Commonwealth Department of Health has partnered with the aged care industry to develop the National Aged Care Emergency Response (NACER) Program. The initiative mobilises aged care staff from areas across Australia not experiencing community transmission, to assist in caring for people in aged care facilities impacted by COVID-19. While the initial focus is on supporting Victoria, it is a national program that can be expanded where and when it is needed.
NACER is seeking experienced Registered Nurses, Enrolled Nurses, Personal Care Workers and Cleaners who are currently working in aged care to provide surge workforce support. An attractive remuneration and support package is on offer including a $5,000 bonus for successful completion of a rotation.
Ideally teams of six will be coordinated by the aged care provider and sent on placement for four weeks, followed by two weeks of quarantine. Providers will need to endorse staff as having the right character, skills and experience, and the ability to work under pressure and in confronting environments. Providers should carefully consider their own operational needs before agreeing to release staff – they will still be required to provide adequate staffing levels across all their sites to meet residents’ needs.
Further information on the NACER Program is available on the department’s website.
Victorian Aged Care Response Centre Hub
The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is coordinating the response to COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care centres and has established the Victorian Health Services Coordination Hub, to enhance surveillance of outbreaks in the aged care sector.
The hub network unifies the efforts of public and private health systems, ensuring COVID-19 outbreaks at aged care facilities are managed with the best available resourcing across a number of local services.
The full release can be found here.
Older persons COVID-19 support line
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line has been set up to provide information, support and connection for older Australians during the period of social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COTA Australia, National Seniors, Dementia Australia and the Older Person’s Advocacy Network have banded together to deliver this service, supported by funding from the Australian Government.
Older Australians, their families, friends and carers can FREECALL 1800 171 866 if they:
- would like to talk with someone about the COVID-19 restrictions and its impact on them
- are feeling lonely or are worried about a loved one
- are caring for someone and need some information or a listening ear
- need help with questions or concerns about residential aged care, visitation or home care services
- need help to access new care services or essential supplies such as shopping
- are concerned about themselves, a friend or family member living with dementia
- would like to arrange a one-off or regular wellbeing check for themselves, or someone else.
Home care service providers can also use the number and dial option 1 to refer home care clients who would like a call from an independent organisation to check on their wellbeing.
Since its launch on 22 April, the line has received or made calls covering wellbeing checks, information on COVID-19 and travel restrictions, concerns with residential aged care homes visits and seeking information about retaining or altering their home care arrangements.
As COVID-19 measures lift in parts of the country, the Support Line has been able to connect older people with the COVID-19 action plan to help people to make COVIDSafe decisions about work, transport, and social activities in their communities during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In parts of the country with community transmission, especially as new COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, the Support Line has provided older Australians who are not digitally connected the ability to speak with someone who has been able to research specific questions and provide them the latest government advice over the phone.
Older Australians who do not speak English can:
- call TIS National on 131 450
- request an interpreter
ask to be put through to the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line or quote the 1800 171 866 phone number to be connected.
Updated NSW Health advice for aged care providers
The NSW Chief Health Officer provided updated advice to residential aged care facilities and home care providers.
In response to questions received from residential aged care facilities about implementing this guidance, a series of FAQs has been prepared and is available here.