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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Reminder that COVID-positive staff must not work in residential aged care facilities

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The department of health has issued a reminder to approved providers of aged care, that staff who are COVID-19 positive must not work in a residential aged care facility.

COVID-positive staff must isolate in accordance with requirements in the relevant public health order in each state/territory.

Where COVID-positive staff are well and able to undertake supporting functions for the facility from their own home, this is supported.

On January 1, 2022, the Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly, approved interim guidance for providers when determining whether to place work restrictions on aged care workers.

The guidance was updated on January 5 to take into account the updated advice on the definition of ‘contacts’ issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

The guidance, titled Commonwealth Permissions and Restrictions for Workers in Aged Care – Interim Guidance, provides a process to support safe assessment and decision making when determining whether to place work permissions/restrictions on a worker after a COVID-19 exposure or in an outbreak.

Where a worker is a COVID-19 case contact (whether exposed in the community or in the workplace), approved providers should consult this guidance in deciding how to respond.

Any decisions regarding work permissions and restrictions for the worker should be accurately documented, and all decisions should be regularly reviewed by the provider in light of changing local circumstances.

In all circumstances, providers are expected to have in place the full range of Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures to minimise and manage the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

At the same time, it is acknowledged that risk cannot be eliminated and exposures will occur.

Any aged care provider that is knowingly requiring COVID-positive staff to work on-site will be referred to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and relevant state authorities for regulatory action.

The commission takes very seriously the safety and wellbeing of all aged care residents.

Where a provider places residents at risk by failing to have or activate an up-to-date outbreak management plan and/or responds slowly or poorly to an exposure or outbreak, the commission takes compliance action proportionate to the assessed risk.

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