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13 August 2021

Thank you for continuing to stay up to date with the latest information via this newsletter.

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.

Single site funding support for COVID-19 impacted areas

The Australian Government is closely monitoring the situation across the country, particularly in NSW, ACT and Queensland and Victoria.

Single site funding support remains for Greater MelbourneGreater Sydney,  other NSW LGA’s and is also in place for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) area. Workers at residential aged care facilities in these areas are asked to limit their work to a single facility to reduce the risk of transmission and protect workers and residents.

Providers in these areas are asked to adjust their rosters and ensure staff are only working at one residential aged care facility within this region during this time. Workers are encouraged to speak with their primary employer and look to work all shifts during this period with the residential aged care provider where they were working the most hours prior to the outbreak. To the greatest extent possible, the employer should seek to match any hours no longer being worked with a secondary employer to ensure the worker is not financially disadvantaged. It is important workers also retain the security of any secondary employment.

The use of agency staff is permitted but should be limited, while still ensuring an adequate standard of care for residents. Where required, agency workers should be booked in shifts and extra precaution should be taken to ensure the risk of transmission is minimised. In all hotspot locations, facilities should take additional steps to minimise transmission risks where possible – screening, testing, PPE usage, and tracking staff movements.

Where these arrangements result in additional workforce expenses, providers are able to seek reimbursement from the Australian Government through the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant. The SACWIC grant opportunity remains open until 31 December 2021.

In addition to funding support, providers can also access guidance on practical implementation of single site arrangements, including employee relations expertise, through the Guiding Principles Support Hub website or hotline on 1800 491 793.

ACT Restrictions

The ACT CHO has issued an updated alert on 12 August 2021 regarding the COVID-19 situation. In summary:

  • Updated advice for high-risk settings:
    • ACT is entering a seven-day lockdown from 5:00 pm on 12/08/21.  During this time, all visitors must be excluded from RACFs unless attending for the following reasons:
      • Compassionate reasons
      • End of life reasons
      • For the purposes of performing essential work on or at the premises, that cannot be performed from the person’s residence
    • Workers undertaking work that is not essential work are not permitted to enter or remain at the premises.
    • RACFs should continue to require all staff and visitors to complete entry screening questions. 
    • Please update the screening tool for your facility. 
  • Update to outings advice for all high-risk settings:
    • Residents from high-risk settings should only leave the premises for essential reasons, similar to the ACT community.
    • Facilities must ensure that residents are provided with a mask (if appropriate) and advice about hand hygiene, physical distancing and advice on using the Check In CBR app if they need to leave the facility for essential purposes.
  • Face masks must be carried at all times and worn by everyone aged over 12 years outside the home.
  • Geographical areas of risk added: All of NSW except if you live in the surrounding NSW region (see postcodes) and you are entering the ACT for essential work or to access essential healthcare. If this applies, you will not need an exemption, as you are covered by a standing exemption issued by ACT Health.
  • Read the latest ACT COVID-19 updates for additional information for home-based care providers, during the period of the ACT lockdown, essential health care services must take reasonable steps to provide services via telehealth or other virtual care options where possible and clinically appropriate to do so.

The COVID-19 situation can change rapidly and as such, advice for high-risk settings is subject to change regularly. ACT Health will continue to keep you updated through these Chief Health Officer alerts.

NSW Health – Updated advice

The screening advice for residential aged care facilities and home care service providers has been updated for 12 August 2021.

The key messages for this update include:

  • There are new areas of concern in NSW for the Local Government Areas of:
    • Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton and Muswellbrook from 31 July until 19 August 2021 (inclusive)
    • Armidale LGA from 29 July until 14 August 2021 (inclusive).
    • Tamworth from 5 August until 16 August 2021 (inclusive).
    • Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Richmond Valley from 31 July until 16 August 2021 (inclusive).
    • Dubbo from 1 August until 18 August 2021 (inclusive).
    • Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Narromine, Walgett and Warren from 5 August until 19 August 2021 (inclusive).
  • The temporary suspension of disability day programs has been extended in all of the NSW LGAs with stay at home orders.
  • There are restrictions for Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory
  • Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory are considered affected areas and there are close and casual contact places of high concern. To view locations please see Latest COVID-19 case locations and alerts in NSW.

This information can change rapidly so please check the NSW Health website at least daily for updates.

QLD restrictions update and PPE use

RACFs in QLD please note that the 11 LGAs in South East Qld, Cairns and Yarrabah are currently rated at Moderate Risk for the purposes of the PPE Guidance, as per letter from Adjunct Professor Shelley Nowlan, A/Deputy Director General, Clinical Excellence Queensland.

The Queensland Government are encouraging all aged care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a priority, further information about vaccination is available on their website.

See further information on restrictions for aged care and the roadmap summary of all restrictions across Queensland.

WA Health – Residential Aged Care Worker Vaccination webinar

WA Health and the Australian Government Department of Health would like to invite all people working in aged care who may have questions about COVID-19 vaccination to participate in a webinar on Wednesday 25 August at 1:15pm-2pm (AWST).

WA’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Andy Robertson and Lisa Peterson, Assistant Secretary Aged Care COVID-19 Vaccine Branch will be online to give a short presentation and then answer any questions that participants may have. Please send in your questions ahead of time by emailing: covid.immunisation@health.wa.gov.au.

Click on the link to join the COVID-19 Vaccination webinar for residential aged care workers, you do not need to register to attend.

The session will be recorded and will be made available after the event.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for The Residential Aged Care Facility Worker Access Directions and share this with your staff and relevant networks.

Support in the event of an outbreak

In the event of an outbreak in aged care, Australian Government Department of Health Case Managers will be allocated to any New South Wales Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF). The Case Managers will work with the RACF to ensure:

  • Workforce capacity;
  • Application of infection prevention and control measures;
  • Adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Waste procedures are in place, and
  • Communication with family and friends associated with the RACF residents.

Residential aged care providers need to remain alert and prepared for a potential outbreak of COVID-19 at their facilities. The department encourages you to be familiar with the measures you should have in place at all times to prevent and prepare for an outbreak and how to identify and manage an outbreak in residential aged care.

Please visit our website for information and resources to assist in preparing and managing a COVID-19 outbreak, including what to do in the first 24 hours of an outbreak in a residential aged care facility.

Mental health supports

Aged care and health workers can play an important role in identifying changes in the mental health of residents during COVID-19 and connecting them with available support.

The following Commonwealth funded mental health supports are available to residents during COVID-19:

  • The Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule initiative – which allows residents to access up to 20 individual Medicare subsidised psychological services each calendar year until 30 June 2022. These services are also available by telehealth until 31 December 2021. For more information, visit the initiative webpage.
  • Primary Health Network (PHN) commissioned psychological in-reach services for residents. Service models vary across PHNs and telehealth is available in many regions. For information on services in your area, you can contact your local PHN using the PHN map locator.

Support for health and aged care workers around understanding and assisting the mental health of residents is also available through free online training modules developed by Australian Psychological Society. This includes a mental health awareness module and targeted clinicians module.

Community Visitors Scheme

Aged care residents can also access volunteer visits through the Community Visitors Scheme (CVS). The CVS is a free service that aims to provide friendship and companionship to older people who are lonely or isolated. The scheme matches a volunteer visitor with older Australians and is run across all states.

To refer a socially isolated older Australian, refer them to the CVS Network in your state with a phone call and some basic information about the person and their preferences/interests to find a suitable match. To refer someone to the LGBTI services, contact the LGBTI service provider in your state.

Further information on the CVS program is available on the Department’s website at: Community Visitors Scheme. A CVS information flyer in 63 languages is also available at Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) Flyer.

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