VHA participates in COVID-19 Preparedness Forum

March 10, 2020

The VHA participated in the Aged Care COVID-19 Preparedness Forum held in Canberra on 6 March. Hosted by the Federal Government Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck.

BaptistCare spoke about their experience with the first confirmed cases in staff and residents at one of their Sydney facilities.

Collaboration between the Commonwealth, the aged care sector, state and territory public health authorities, and the healthcare sector is a key part of COVID-19 planning and preparedness activity.

The forum largely focussed on residential aged care, but it was acknowledged there needed to be a specific home care forum.

Key points

The Communicable Diseases Network of Australian (CDNA) will soon be releasing guidelines for the prevention, control and management of COVID-19 in residential aged care facilities.

Aged care providers to:

  • Maintain their facility’s Infection Control protocols
  • Activate their facility’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan, including testing and updating assumptions in those plans
  • Finalise arrangements for seasonal flu vaccinations for residents, staff and volunteers
  • Communicate regularly with aged care consumers and their families.

The Government to:

  • Clarify the role of aged care providers, state and territory governments and the Commonwealth in preparing for and responding to COVID-19
  • Ensure the availability of Personal Protective Equipment for aged care services
  • Consider increased delivery of infection control and procedures training
  • Ensure ongoing communications including a forum focused on home and community care
  • Establish communications package directed at aged care workers, with practical advice on how to feel protected and prepared
  • Develop strategies to maintain and retain the workforce, and to develop options for an aged care surge workforce capacity which may involve the increasing the hours of visa holders, lifting regulatory arrangements around general practice and the use of graduates and students
  • Deliver a broad communications campaign for the community.

The VHA also noted some other key points:

  • The issue of some aged care staff working casually across a number of providers
  • Determining whether or not to transfer a resident with COVID-19 to hospital – updated Advance Care Directives needed as to the persons end of life wishes
  • No health care worker has caught COVID-19 while using PPE
  • Need for advice on the proper use and removal of PPE
  • If using PPE in contact with a COVID-19 resident there is no need to self isolate – you are not considered to have caught the infection
  • Specific workshop for the home care sector required
  • Surge workforce to include higher number of RNs with infection control expertise (perhaps in local regions)

Hospital transfers
Professor Murphy outlined in Senate Estimates at what point a resident should be transferred to hospital: The point would be when it’s felt that they need hospital care—if they need treatment that only a hospital can provide. They might have a secondary infection. They might be physically quite unwell. They might need respiratory support. In those circumstances they’d be transferred to hospital. If they just had a bit of a fever and a cough and they were otherwise well, we would hope that most facilities would be prepared to look after them there, because it’s in their interest.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has developed new risk-based questions
The Commission has developed a set of standard risk-based questions that will be asked on commencement of a performance assessment. Quality assessors will ask these questions of the person in charge at the service during the entry meeting.
The Commission determines the focus of these questions based on:

  • areas identified from previous assessments
  • requirements of the Quality Standards which cause concern or are most frequently not met across the sector
  • risk-based industry alerts which may form part of the Commission’s current strategy such as infection control.

The questions are available here:
Residential services – Risk-based questions
Home services – Risk-based questions