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Government adopts industry code of conduct and an extra $205 million for aged care

Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison announced that the National Cabinet has adopted a code of conduct for visitations in nursing homes, which they developed with the aged care sector, as well as adding an additional $205 million for the sector to cope with COVID-19 costs.

Minister Richard Colbeck commended the hard work of the aged care sector during the COVID-19 crisis. [Source: Scott Morrison's facebook page]

The code has been in development since Monday this week in what Minister for Aged Care and Older Australians, Richard Colbeck, described as the quickest creation of a code he has ever seen.

In the press announcement, PM Morrison says, "National Cabinet has had a very strong view in its position that it has held consistently from the advice received by the Medical Expert Panel to ensure Australians can continue to have reasonable access to their family, friends and others they are supporting in aged care facilities.

"I want to commend Minister Colbeck for the great job he has done over the course of the past week working with the industry to establish an industry code that has been supported by the major peak aged care organisations in Australia as well as consumer groups in the aged care sector, and drawing together an industry code that reflects absolutely the National Cabinet advice that it adopted from the medical expert panel which provides important access for families and other support people to those in aged care facilities.

"We welcome that and appreciate the collaborative way in which the industry has engaged with the government to achieve that over the course of the past week."

This code of conduct was the result of industry calls for enhanced aged care visitation protections after a 'standoff' with Government when it called on the sector to stick to visitor restrictions rather than a full facility lockdown and peak bodies asking for a framework around that in the current environment.

The additional $205 million boost is a one-off payment to aged care facilities around the country which will support them with the costs they are incurring to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Aged care facilities have been experiencing increased costs to combat the coronavirus from entering the facilities.

This funding aims to provide financial support to aged care so they can put in place all of the safety measures they need which will in-turn assist with the industry code implementation.

PM Morrison says, "It will keep those aged care facilities safer and give their families greater peace of mind when it comes to how those issues are being managed in the aged care sector."

Minister Colbeck expressed his gratitude to the aged care sector for their work protecting older Australians.

The Government worked with aged care peak bodies - Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), Catholic Health Australia, BaptistCare Australia, the Aged Care Guild, Uniting Care and Anglicare, and with consumer organisations - Council of the Ageing (COTA), National Seniors, Dementia Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Carers Australia, to establish the national code.

"I think the aged care sector should be congratulated for the work it's done in managing COVID. In this country, we have only had 23 residential aged care facilities that have had an outbreak of COVID-19. Of those 23, 15 have completely cleared it, eight are still dealing with it, but there will be more that will clear it in coming days. That is a tribute to them," says Minister Colbeck. 

"It is also a tribute to the work that the Australian community has done in managing transmission in the community that has prevented it from getting into residential aged care facilitates."

The $205 million will provide aged care facilities with support payments of $900 per occupied bed, that will be provided across residential codes in metropolitan areas.

For regional Australia, who generally experience higher costs, they will receive a 50 percent uplift to $1,350 per residential bed.

At the moment, aged care facilities have been covering costs for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other screening methods, this funding aims to alleviate these additional costs on nursing homes.

This additional funding has raised Federal Government spending on aged care specific to COVID-19 to over $800 million.

Aged care peak body, the Aged Care Guild, has welcomed the additional funding from the Government to support the sector in responding to COVID-19 in aged care.

Chair of the Aged Care Guild, Linda Mellors, expressed appreciation on behalf of the Guild for the construction discussions they held with the Government over this week.

"The Prime Minister and Minister Colbeck have been very sympathetic to the extraordinary demands our sector is facing as a result of COVID-19," says Ms Mellors.

Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Aged Care Guild, Nicholas Brown, adds that the funding is a positive step to ensuring providers can continue protecting vulnerable Australians in their care as well as the workforce that cares for them.

"This announcement is an acknowledgment of the tireless work of the more than 360,000 aged care workers on the ground during this pandemic,” says Mr Brown.

The Aged Care Guild was pleased to see the Aged Care Visitor Access Code adopted by the National Cabinet today.

Peak body for aged care, LASA, says it is glad to hear the draft Visitor Access Code (VAC) was accepted by the Federal Government, and welcomes additional funding for the sector.

CEO of LASA, Sean Rooney, says, “We have worked with other provider peaks and consumer groups to produce a draft VAC and will be inviting feedback from our Members. We look forward to finalising the VAC to get the balance right in providing good quality, compassionate care alongside the appropriate protections for aged care residents.

“We welcome this support for residential aged care as this will assist in covering the extra costs required in protecting the over 200,000 elderly Australians in our care from coronavirus. This additional funding will help us to continue the fight.”

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

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