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Victorian aged care facilities transitioning to single site operations

COVID-19 has exposed the issues of employees working across multiple aged care facilities during a pandemic after a few aged care workers carried the coronavirus between different nursing homes in Victoria.

The Federal and State Government believe that reducing the movement of staff between aged care sites will minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading further in aged care. [Source: iStock]
The Federal and State Government believe that reducing the movement of staff between aged care sites will minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading further in aged care. [Source: iStock]

Since identifying cross-site transmission as an issue, the Federal Government's Department of Health is providing guidance and support to Victorian aged care providers in transitioning to single site operations for their workforce.

The Federal and State Government believe that reducing the movement of staff between aged care sites will minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading further to more older vulnerable Australians.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck, and Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, recognised that the aged care workforce have done a great job considering the current pandemic, however, more needs to be done to prevent community based infection and to reduce the transmission between facilities.

Some of the strategies include:

  • Federal Government funding to aged care employers to support employees working at a single site, train new additional staff in case existing employees are unable to come into work; support workers if they have symptoms and can't work or have to self-isolate or follow travel restrictions; and provide alternative accommodation to worker who live or work in hotspot areas of Victoria

  • State Government is providing a one-off $1,500 payment to Victorian aged care workers who need to self-isolate or quarantine at home on the direction from the State Health Department

  • Representatives from the Victorian Aged Care Industry will be working with providers and employees to reduce the workforce share between facilities

  • Monash University will be providing further infection control training to aged care workers

  • Prioritisation of contact tracing in aged care facilities

  • Five new COVID-19 testing teams for staff and residents in aged care for metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire

  • Private and public hospitals will be providing better support to aged care facilities during and after a COVID-19 outbreak

In a joint statement from industry peak bodies, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), have welcomed the announcements, however, they have stated that this commitment from the Government needs to protect the staff who have to minimise their movement.

"In hotspot areas, movement of people must be kept to a minimum and this presents a significant challenge for aged care as many of our passionate staff work at more than one location," the peaks say.

"The new principles must ensure that no worker is disadvantaged and that providers are given the financial and other support necessary to fill shifts and keep their residents safe."

LASA’s Acting Chief Advocate Tim Hicks said within the last week that, "Providers are frustrated that they seem to have to work off media statements from Governments rather than practical help in the deadly battle with COVID-19".

“The Government has promised support to deal with the financial cost of ensuring no workers are worse off, and filling any staffing gaps, but we have not yet seen any detail on what those measures will actually involve, causing immense confusion and distress among providers and staff."

 For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide 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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