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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Health dept says balance expected regarding access to aged care facilities by visitors

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Providers of residential care are being asked by the federal department of health to ensure they are balancing their responsibilities to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering residential aged care facilities (RACFs) with their responsibilities for meeting the physical, social and emotional needs of residents.

This includes balancing compliance with local restrictions on movement in the community with allowing face-to-face visiting.

All state restrictions allow visitors to enter RACF to deliver essential care and support or for compassionate reasons.

The Visitation Guidelines for Residential Aged Care Facilities provides guidance on who can be granted access and how this access should occur, for example, with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

It should be read in conjunction with the COVID-19 Escalation Tiers And Aged Care Provider Responses, which provide guidance for aged care providers on actions (recommended or required) to be undertaken depending on the COVID-19 situation within the community.

Essential care persons, including spouses, regular social support people or those reflected in the Partnerships in Care model should be supported to comply with appropriate Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) practices.

This could include training in IPC and the use of PPE.

  • An essential care person is someone who has frequently and regularly visited a resident to provide aspects of care and companionship to that person.
  • An essential care person is not a casual visitor, or a visitor not providing an aspect of care, or a visitor who the resident does not want to have assisting with their care.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), recommends that RACF staff should not be required to supervise visits, except during Tier 3 where visitors should be escorted to and from the resident’s room. However staff should promote compliance with COVID-19 prevention methods by:

  • educating visitors on entry about practising social distancing and hygiene during their visit
  • supporting application of required PPE
  • placing signage throughout the facility to remind visitors to maintain these measures
  • screening visitors on their current health status upon entry to ensure unwell visitors do not enter the facility

Many residential Aged Care residents have friends through the Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) who play an essential care role. R

ACF’s should support CVS visiting friends providing they meet these general restriction requirements.

Where visits are not possible in person, contact by other means such as telephone, internet, letter etc should be facilitated by RACFs.

Developed by the aged care sector peaks, the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 (Industry Code) also provides guidance to aged care providers on visitation.

The principles and approaches within the Industry Code should be considered in supporting the proportionate controls required to support safe visitation to aged care homes.

Aged care service providers and visitors to RACFs must in the first instance comply with their local State/Territory Health Directive, where they supersede the Escalation Tiers in the Industry Code, noting there may be exemptions on compassionate ground.

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