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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Wells meets with aged care providers to strengthen first line of COVID defence

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Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells has met with more than 1000 aged care providers to emphasise the importance of remaining proactive in the face of the winter COVID-19 wave.

“The last two years have been really tough – especially for the aged care sector, for frontline workers and managers, and for residents and their families,” Wells said on Tuesday, following the meeting.

I want to assure workers, residents and families that the Albanese Labor Government is standing shoulder to shoulder with you. I am leaving no stone unturned in our response to this wave.

Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells

“During the height of January’s wave a provider told me they felt like they were fighting a war, and I can think of dozens who have said something similar in recent weeks.

“I want to assure workers, residents and families that the Albanese Labor Government is standing shoulder to shoulder with you.

“I am leaving no stone unturned in our response to this wave.

Wells said that health and medical advice is clear – the sector’s best defence in the COVID fight is vaccines and the swift deployment of antiviral treatments.

“Since Minister Butler and I wrote to aged care providers in our first week in office, we have seen a swift uptick in the fourth dose vaccination rates for residents – more than 15 per cent,” she said.

“I am extremely grateful to providers for heeding this call. But we can do more.

On Tuesday, Wells informed aged care providers that from August 1, resident vaccination rates at individual aged care homes will be published on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.

“This will further drive those rates up and reduce the incidence of severe disease, and even death,” she said.

“In addition to vaccines and taking steps to minimise the risk of infection, early treatment of COVID-19 cases is key.

“The Government recently expanded the eligibility for access to antiviral treatments to all people over 70 regardless of symptoms or risk factors.

Wells urged providers to discuss and pre-assess residents’ eligibility for antivirals. She said this is critical because swift administration of antivirals can reduce the severity of the virus.

“The Chief Medical Officer has issued advice on the standard of care concerning the prompt administration of COVID-19 antivirals,” she said.

“That means, from now, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner will consider this to be best practice.”

The Department of Health and Aged Care said the Government is continuing to support residential aged care facilities by supplying personal protective equipment, rapid antigen tests, surge workforce, and other supports – including antiviral treatments from the PBS – to protect and treat those at most risk of severe illness during influenza and COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant remains open for residential and home care providers to reimburse the direct costs of managing COVID-19.

Eligible expenses include additional staff costs, PPE or RATs procured through commercial channels during or immediately prior to the outbreak, and other infection control measures.

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