The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) says it is disappointed that Victoria’s new Public Health Order, coming into effect at 6pm today, will not require all visitors to residential aged care to be fully vaccinated.
“Visits from loved ones in aged care homes are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of residents in care,” a statement from AACC read.
“Our priority is to ensure the wellbeing and safety of residents and the dedicated staff that care for them.
“This means doing all we can to balance protections against COVID-19 transmission and ensuring older Australians can receive visits from loved ones safely.
“The reality is that not all residents are vaccinated and even those who are vaccinated are still vulnerable.
“We would encourage all those who are considering visiting their loved ones to visit responsibly.”
The AACC notes the advice of the AHPPC from October 1, which strongly encourages all visitors, aged 12 and over, to RACFs to be fully vaccinated.
Further, AACC said it supports the approach by New South Wales where they have mandated through their Public Health Orders that up to two vaccinated visitors may attend a residential aged care facility per day and these must be vaccinated (with exemption for end of life and medical contraindication).
By only encouraging vaccination for visitors to aged care homes, rather making this mandatory, the VIC Public Health Order creates an additional and unnecessary risk of COVID-19 transmission, the AACC said.
“Older Australians are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and residential aged care facilities have established strong screening and Infection Protection and Control practices to prevent COVID-19 being introduced into facilities,” the statement continued.
“There is now mandatory vaccination of the workforce and a high proportion of residents are also vaccinated.
“Unvaccinated Victorians considering visiting their loved ones in aged care may still be disappointed as the onus is on the facility to do what is in the interests of its residents, rather than having a clear mandate for vaccination in the Public Health Order.
“The ambiguity also adds extra complexity and is a drain on resources for providers who are already experiencing workforce difficulties.”
Whilst the relaxation of visiting restrictions recognises the progress made in vaccination in the community providers remain very alert to the risks that high number of visitors who may be unvaccinated poses to their residents, particularly when community transmission in Victoria is still high.
“It must be a national priority to do all we can to keep vulnerable older Australians, the passionate people that care for them, safe from COVID-19,” the AACC said.
“This must translate into appropriate protections in Public Health Orders in States and Territories as we seek to gain agreement on a national plan for living with COVID-19 in aged care.”
The AACC is a group of six aged care peak bodies: Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and UnitingCare Australia.
Together, the group represents more than 1000 organisations who deliver 70 per cent of aged care services to 1.3 million Australians, either in their own homes or in communal residential settings.