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New outbreak management guide for aged care providers

A new guide for aged care providers outlines how they should be supporting their staff, care recipients, family members and visitors when preventing, preparing and managing a COVID-19 outbreak.

Commissioner of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, Janet Anderson PSM, has told aged care providers her expectations of service delivery during COVID-19. [Source: Senate Estimates Committee]
Commissioner of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, Janet Anderson PSM, has told aged care providers her expectations of service delivery during COVID-19. [Source: Senate Estimates Committee]

This guide, Outbreak management planning in aged care, was released by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) and is considered imperative for aged care providers to follow to minimise risks and impact of COVID-19 in aged care facilities.

Commissioner of ACQSC, Janet Anderson PSM, has communicated to aged care providers her expectations that all aged care services remain committed to combating COVID-19 in their aged care service.

Ms Anderson says the sector cannot be complacent when it comes to the coronavirus, even though Australia has managed to return to a 'COVID-normal' way of living with small numbers of positive cases in communities. Aged care facilities need to be prepared to do everything possible to prepare for any future outbreaks.

"As a sector, we have learned much from this pandemic to date and it is important that we continue to embed these learnings into our practice to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of older people receiving care, their families, staff and the broader community," explains Ms Anderson.

"The experience of providers through the challenging months of 2020 highlights how critical effective planning and preparation is, it literally makes the difference between life and death, between confidence and panic."

The guide has practical guidance for residential aged care services and is a combination of resources published by ACQSC and the Commonwealth Department of Health and State and Territory Health Departments.

Key areas in the guide include:

  • Infection prevention and control - such as infection control processes, screening and testing, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and cleaning and clinical waste management

  • Screening, monitoring and testing - Routine screening of all people who enter, including staff, health professionals, service providers and visitors

  • Isolating residents - COVID-19 negative residents must be separated from COVID-10 positive residents

  • PPE - Sufficient PPE is available for any outbreaks that occur

  • Cleaning - High and increased cleaning standards 

  • Waste management - For potentially contaminated waste

  • Workforce - All impacts to the workforce are considered, potentially having minimum workforce requirements and use furloughed staff remotely

  • Communications - Higher communication between people receiving care and families

  • Liaising with external agencies - Understanding the reporting requirements and involving providers and Government agencies in outbreak management plans

  • Visitor access and restrictions - If your risk of COVID-19 is low in the facilities areas, limiting visitors to reduce the risk of transmission aren't necessary. Family members who provide personal care or assistance to a loved one in aged care should be given special consideration

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will be regulating the aged care sector to make sure providers are meeting their requirements in providing safe and quality care to older Australians.

Further resources will be provided to aged care providers to support them as Australia transitions to a COVID-normal society.

To view the guide, visit the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission website.

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