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Aged care providers urged to refrain from unnecessary isolation rules

Last week, Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison strongly reminded aged care providers, and services, to not put in place restrictions that go over and above the recommendations from the National Cabinet.

PM Morrison stated that the National Cabinet is concerned about the isolation of older people in some nursing homes. [Source: Live Video from Scott Morrison social media]
PM Morrison stated that the National Cabinet is concerned about the isolation of older people in some nursing homes. [Source: Live Video from Scott Morrison social media]

PM Morrison stated that the National Cabinet is concerned about the isolation of older people in residential aged care facilities with some nursing homes deciding to go into lockdown even though it hasn't reported an outbreak.

Back in March, the Government recommended visitor restrictions in aged care facilities to protect older residents, however, some facilities decided to ramp up to a lockdown of the nursing homes instead.

"We reviewed recent events in a number of aged care facilities and took the lessons from those cases. An important one is, the findings that we are very concerned about the restrictions that have been put in place in aged care facilities [that are] over and above what was recommended by the National Cabinet on the residents in those facilities," says PM Morrison.

"There is great concern that the isolation of elderly people in residential aged care facilities, where they have been prevented from having any visits from loved ones and support people, is not good being and not good for their health. 

"And so the National Cabinet agreed that there needs to be a strong reminder that the National Cabinet decision was to not shut people off or lock people away in their rooms. That was never the recommendation or the advice of the National Cabinet.

"The advice, I think, was very clear about ensuring there were visits of two a day of close relatives and support people and this would be undertaken in residents rooms. Otherwise, residents would be able to be in other parts of the facility, they could sit in common rooms and sit in outdoor areas of these facilities, and we would like as many freedoms to be extended to residents in aged care facilities as is possible."

PM Morrison says that further restrictions, like lockdowns, should only be implemented in a facility if there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 in that facility or an outbreak in the area where the facility is located.

Outbreaks are the only exceptional circumstances where further restrictions might need to be placed on people living in aged care facilities.

"We think it is a good thing for people to have those visits in accordance with those screening procedures and other things that are necessary to protect older residents in those situations," explains PM Morrison.

"It shouldn't be done out of the convenience of isolation in terms of how these facilities are run. It should always be in the interest of people who live in those facilities." 

Additionally, PM Morrison adds that unnecessary isolation rules also apply to older people self-isolating at home that should continue to receive home care if they require it or to allow visits from loved ones or friends but with social distancing in mind.

Federal Government also announced the gradual restart of elective surgeries and some dentistry commencing from after ANZAC Day.

Peak body for non-profit aged care providers, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), has responded to today's comments made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy. 

ACSA says the sector is taking strong action to control the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable people in its care, and that the Commonwealth Guidelines and State directives providers are operating under are all still in place and being complied with.

However, some aged care providers have made the difficult decision to make further restrictions depending on their individual circumstances including location and individual needs of residents.

Chief Executive Officer of ACSA, Patricia Sparrow, says, “We have taken a very strong position in aged care because we are looking after vulnerable people. Given the terrible circumstances we face, results to date indicate the situation has been managed as well as can be expected, but we need to remain vigilant. 

"We require further clarity from the government because the current restrictions are causing confusion and distress. This is an unprecedented situation. Not all decisions will be perfect because we are balancing a serious pandemic with keeping people socially connected. 

"There are increased mental and health supports available across Australia to try and limit the social isolation
many are experiencing. Providers are very focussed on supporting the mental and spiritual health and wellbeing of residents. We care. That’s why we provide aged care.

“These decisions haven’t been made lightly. We are acutely aware of the hardship being faced by many families and residents in aged care. Our first priority will always be the health and safety of the vulnerable older Australians in our care.”

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide's COVID-19 update page. 

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email journalist@dps.com.au.

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