COVID-19 wrap-up for health, aged care and community health services

Information current at 4 October 2022

This COVID-19 wrap-up provides a summary of Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions, measures and requirements, and how they impact health, aged care and community health services.

For the latest information, check the Victorian Government and Commonwealth Government COVID-19 websites.

If you have a query that you would like the VHA to follow up with Government, please email feedback@vha.org.au and we will work with relevant stakeholders to secure a response.

4 October 2022

Victoria’s purpose-built quarantine hub at Mickleham will cease operations next week.

Since quarantine requirements for international arrivals were lifted, the hub has continued to provide accommodation to Victorians needing a place to isolate safely with COVID-19 – a vital service throughout the winter peak.

 

30 September 2022

As per a National Cabinet decision, mandatory isolation requirements for COVID-19 will end effective 14 October, with each jurisdiction implementing the change via relevant public health legislation.

National Cabinet agreed to the end the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment (PLDP) effective the same date. To protect the most vulnerable and those in high-risk settings, the National Cabinet agreed to continue targeted financial support for casual workers, on the same basis as the PLDP, for workers in aged care, disability care, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare and hospital care sectors.

 

21 September 2022

From 22 September, face masks will no longer be required on public transport or in taxis, rideshare services or tourism vehicles and will instead be strongly recommended, in line with the existing indoor mask recommendations.

The requirement to wear face masks will remain when visiting a hospital, care facility or any other indoor space that is publicly accessible in a healthcare setting, including allied health providers. Masks are also required if you have COVID or are a close or household contact and are not required to quarantine – for example, because you have tested negative on a rapid antigen test.

 

7 September 2022

The Victorian Government has updated it pandemic orders to align with National Cabinet decisions on 31 August:

From 11.59pm tonight, the self-isolation period for positive COVID-19 cases who don’t have symptoms on day five of their isolation will reduce from seven to five days – excluding people who work in high-risk settings.
Anyone leaving isolation after five days cannot visit or work at a sensitive setting – such as hospitals, residential aged care, disability care settings or in-home care for the next two days, or if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

31 August 2022

As per a National Cabinet decision, the isolation period for COVID-19 positive cases will be reduced from 7 to 5 days (for people with no symptoms at 5 days) from 9 September. Seven-day isolation remains for workers in high-risk setting including aged care, disability care, those providing care in the home.

 

9 August 2022

The Victorian Government will provide free N95 and KN95 masks through its state-run testing sites, community health services public transport network.

Over the next four to six weeks every person that presents for either a free rapid antigen or PCR test will receive one box of 10 N95 masks, along with instructions on how best to wear them to reduce transmission.

Wearing a mask is strongly recommended if you are in an indoor setting, can’t physically distance, have any COVID-19 symptoms, or are with people who may be vulnerable to COVID-19. Masks are still mandatory in high-risk settings including hospitals, aged care and on public transport.

 

17 July 2022

To help make patients’ time in hospital more efficient while the health system deals with staff shortages, the Victorian Government is deploying additional specialist staff across an initial 12 major hospitals, including: offload nurses to help ambulances offload patients quicker, allowing ambulances to return to the road sooner to attend to other calls; triage doctors responsible for assessing patients quickly and establishing the level of care that they require; and discharge coordinators to focus on the timely transition of care from the ward to home or another healthcare facility.

Meanwhile, two paediatric GP respiratory clinics – running out of the Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital – will be established to combat the recent surge in cases of COVID-19 and flu.

With greater numbers now eligible to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), Medicare will cover a long consultation by a GP for the purpose of prescribing COVID-19 antivirals, with the change coming into effect this week. The new temporary MBS items will cover a longer consultation by phone to ensure antivirals are safely prescribed by doctors and ensure as many people as possible can access these treatments.

 

12 July 2022

Changes to pandemic orders and public health recommendations come into place from 11.59pm on 12 July 2022 to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ensure Victorians are aware of proactive steps they can take to look after themselves and each other.

The period when someone is considered a recently confirmed case (and therefore exempt from testing and isolation/quarantine requirements) has been revised to four weeks, down from 12 weeks. Positive cases are still required to isolate for seven days from the day they took their test but an additional reason to leave home has been added – to provide transport for a household member to obtain food, if essential. The infected person will need to remain in the car and wear a face covering at all times.

Mask wearing in indoor and crowded settings is strongly recommended to protect yourself and the most vulnerable Victorians through winter – but there will not be any changes to current face mask requirements with these new pandemic orders. The Minister for Health is also requesting that employers consider working from home arrangements that are most appropriate for their workplace and employees based on individual requirements.

 

7 July 2022

Expanded fourth dose eligibility

The Australian Government has accepted the recommendations of the ATAGI vaccine experts and will open the fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to those newly eligible from 11 July. ATAGI specifically recommended that people aged 50 to 64 years should have their fourth dose, while people aged 30 to 49 years may choose to have a fourth shot.

 

24 June 2022

Mass vaccination, PCR testing sites to scale back

Victoria’s mass PCR testing and COVID-19 vaccination programs will scale back by June 30, with the number of state vaccination centres decreasing from 39 to 12 and total state-run and private testing sites easing from 265 to approximately 180.

 

18 June 2022

Visitor restrictions in aged care facilities removed

Following changes to Victoria’s pandemic orders, visitor caps to residential aged care facilities are removed, with residents able to see any number of people as long as they test negative on a rapid antigen test that day.

 
Aged care and healthcare workers who interact with a vulnerable person will still require three COVID-19 vaccine doses.

 

25 May 2022

Winter booster recommended for at-risk groups

People aged 16 to 64 who have a medical condition that increases their risk of severe COVID-19 illness and people with disability with significant or complex health needs, will be recommended to receive a winter booster vaccination dose from 30 May 2022.

The Australian Government has accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to expand the booster rollout program to these at-risk population groups.

 

20 April 2022

Visitor restrictions in hospitals to be removed

The Victorian Government announced that, with two-thirds of Victorians aged 16 and over having now had three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Victoria will see most restrictions removed from 11:59pm, Friday 22 April.

As part of the changes to pandemic orders, all visitor restrictions in hospitals will be removed except for mask requirements, with health services able to tailor their own settings based on their own circumstances.

Visitor restrictions in care facilities will be retained to protect the vulnerable. Residents can currently have up to five visitors per day if each show a negative rapid antigen test result – or two visitors if no test results are provided.

 

3 April 2022

$1.5bn surgery catch-up plan

The Victorian Government is investing $1.5bn in a COVID Catch-Up Plan designed to drive the health system to exceed pre-pandemic levels by 25 per cent, providing the care which was deferred because of the global pandemic. 40,000 extra surgeries are planned in the next year, building up to record 240,000 surgeries every year in 2024.

Frankston Private Hospital will be transformed into a public surgery centre with the capacity to support up to 9,000 public patients per year once fully operational in 2023. With no emergency department diverting healthcare workers to more critical patients, this facility will be focused on COVID catch-up care. Two additional state-of-the-art theatres will be completed by early 2023 to boost services at the hospital . A $475 million investment will support more activity in the public system, including more same-day surgeries, increased twilight and after-hours work, and theatre improvements to increase efficiency and fast-track patients through the system.

More public patients will be treated in private hospitals, with an extra 51,300 Victorians to receive non-urgent surgery by June 2024.

Rapid Access Hubs – which exclusively perform specific surgeries such as hernia repairs, cataract surgeries and joint replacements – will be established across metropolitan public hospitals allowing surgical theatres, equipment and staffing to be streamlined. This will increase the number of surgeries that can be performed each day. The first eight hubs will be established in the next year at St Vincent’s on the Park, Broadmeadows Hospital, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Royal Women’s Hospital, Werribee Mercy Hospital, Sandringham Hospital, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and one in regional Victoria with details to be confirmed shortly.

To support the delivery of this new plan and drive long-term improvements and system reforms, a new Chief Surgical Adviser will work with a Surgery Recovery Taskforce to provide clinical expertise and advice.

Victoria’s healthcare workforce will be supported by a package worth more than $80 million to upskill more than 1,000 nurses and theatre and sterilisation technicians, support the training of an additional 400 perioperative nurses and recruit a further 2,000 highly skilled healthcare workers from overseas. A $20 million Surgical Equipment Innovation Fund will be established to ensure health services can upgrade their surgical equipment and diagnostic machines with the latest technology.

 

11 March 2022

Visitors to hospitals and care facilities

Visitors must be fully vaccinated or show evidence of a negative result from a rapid antigen test taken on the day of the visit, unless authorisation of exemption from entry requirements is granted (outlined in the ‘Exemptions to entry requirements’ section below). In addition to the directions outlined in the Pandemic (Visitors to Hospitals and Care Facilities) Order, hospitals and care facilities may put additional restrictions in place in order to protect vulnerable patients and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in their facility.

 

Changes to hospital visiting

Updated pandemic orders now apply for people visiting hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Visitors over 18 need to produce a negative rapid antigen test on the day of visitation and wear an N95 mask.
  • Visitors under 18 need to produce a negative rapid-antigen test of the day of visitation.
  • Visitors under 16 are permitted entry if they are visiting a patient who has a life-threatening medical condition, is receiving palliative care or if they are a child, grandchild or sibling of the patient. They are not counted in the number of visitors if they are visiting a patient having end-of-life treatment or if they are a child, grandchild or sibling of the patient.

Support visits are permitted in emergency departments, outpatient settings, wards and birthing suites.

 

Changes aged care service visiting 

Updated pandemic orders now apply for people visiting care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Visitors over 18 need to produce a negative rapid antigen test on the day of visitation.
  • Visitors under 18 are required to have a parent or guardian make a declaration that they meet all the criteria for entry.

 

Principles for care and support visits

Up to two care and support visits are allowed each day, with no more than two visitors allowed at one time in hospitals.

Care facilities can accept up to 5 visitors a day for residents in their care. No more than 4 visitors can attend a resident at the same time. Visitors may attend the facility each day, but no more than once a day.

Subject to meeting the visitor arrangements, a visitor may attend a hospital or care facility to provide essential care and support necessary for the patient’s immediate emotional or physical wellbeing (including mental health support and support for people living with dementia).

A carer refers to any person including a family member and a person under 18 years of age who provides support, assistance or personal care to a person with healthcare needs or a mental illness, or a disability resulting from a mental illness.

 

 

23 February 2022

ATAGI recommends the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 6-11 years

ATAGI has approved the use of the Moderna vaccine in individuals aged 6 and over as of 23 February 2022. The recommended schedule for Moderna vaccination in children 6-11 years is 2 doses, 8 weeks apart. The interval can be shortened to a minimum of 4 weeks, for children at risk of moderate to severe COVID-19 in special circumstances.

 

22 February 2022

Elective surgery restrictions to lift on 28 February

Following a further assessment of hospitalisation rates and workforce pressures, the remaining restrictions on elective surgery will lift on Monday 28 February 2022.

Public hospitals will be able to resume all surgery, with capacity to be based on an individual assessment of staff availability and COVID-19 demands. Private hospitals will be able to resume up to 100 per cent of pre-COVID activity.

 

21 February 2022

Novavax vaccine now available

Victorians aged 18 and over will be able to access the COVID-19 vaccine Novavax through selected state-run centres as well as GPs and pharmacies from Monday, providing another option for those still waiting for their first or second dose.

Victorians can call the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 or book online via portal.cvms.vic.gov.au. Appointments at GPs and pharmacies can be made at www.health.gov.au

 

18 February 2021

At-home vaccinations – information to share with clients

An at-home appointment means a healthcare professional (such as a doctor or nurse) visits your home to give you a COVID-19 vaccine.

You can get a COVID-19 vaccination at home for your first or second dose if you are 12 or over. A further eligibility assessment will be required for children aged 5 to 11 and people receiving a third dose at home.

To book an at-home appointment, call the COVID-19 hotline on 1800 675 398. For an interpreter, press 0.

People with special requirements or a disability (and their carers) are encouraged to contact a Disability Liaison Officer (DLO) who can help with their booking. You can contact a DLO by:

completing the Request for Disability Liaison Officer support online form

emailing DLOcoordinator@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

 

Who’s eligible?

The vaccinations at home service is intended for eligible people who may face some challenges attending a health care setting for their usual medical needs. Eligibility criteria for this service include but not limited to:

  1. people with an injury, chronic health issue, or frailty affecting mobility
  2. people with moderate to severe physical or psychosocial disability
  3. people with moderate to severe mental health or behavioural issues not otherwise classified as a psychosocial disability
  4. 5 to 11 year-olds who are not able to visit a vaccination service for the any of the reasons listed above
  5. people over 70
  6. people in Public Sector Residential Aged Care or Private Sector Residential Aged Care Settings where a group vaccination service may have previously visited, and an individual who needs dose 1, 2 or 3 of vaccination.

 

Click here for more information.

 

16 February 2022

All elective surgery across public and private hospitals can resume by the end of the month

The Victorian Government has announced a plan to have all elective surgery resume by the end of February. The VHA is pleased that the plan allows hospitals to assess their own capacity to resume elective surgeries, recognising that our health system remains under significant pressure.

 

11 February 2022

Medi-hotels and quarantine hotels winding down operations

Operations will soon cease at Victoria’s remaining quarantine hotels, with the Victorian Quarantine Hub due to become operational later this month to house unvaccinated arrivals and eligible people who are positive and unable to safely isolate at home. With case numbers continuing to fall, the medi-hotels will also cease operations later this month.

The first 250 beds will open at the Hub in late February, with operations scaling up through to the end of April.

 

End to Pandemic Code Brown

The Victorian Government will end its coordinated Pandemic Code Brown on Monday 14 February, following a steady reduction in hospitalisations and fewer staff furloughs. This is a positive sign, although the VHA recognises that the Victorian health system remains under significant pressure.

A coordinated Code Brown for the COVID-19 Pandemic was instituted throughout public health services in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria from midday 19 January 2022.

 

Elective surgery

A further increase to non-urgent elective surgery will begin from Monday 14 February – including private hospitals being able to perform up to 50 per cent of all elective surgery in metropolitan Melbourne and up to 75 per cent of all elective surgery in regional areas.

Public hospitals in regional Victoria will be able to resume all category two elective surgery, dependent on workforce availability.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital will be able to resume all Category 2 procedures, while all other public hospitals in Melbourne will continue to be restricted to emergency and urgent elective surgery.

The Minister for health will consider further easing next week provided that we continue to see hospitalisations and infections reduce, pending an assessment of staff availability and furloughs.

 

10 February 2022

Third dose deadline extended

Healthcare workers eligible to receive an additional COVID-19 vaccine by 12 January 2022 are now required to receive their third dose by 12 March 2022, following a four-week extension.

Eligible HCWs who have not received a third dose by 12 February must provide evidence of a third dose booking by 12 March in order to attend work.

By 12 March, all eligible HCWs must provide evidence of their COVID-19 third dose vaccination status, or a medical exemption by authorised medical practitioner to be able to come to work.

Click here for healthcare worker definitions.

 

4 February 2022 

Elective surgery

From Monday 7 February, private hospitals and day procedure centres will be able to resume day surgery at up to 50 per cent of normal levels. 

The following week, the Minister for health will consider resuming electing surgery in regional hospitals (up to 75%) and metro hospitals (up to 50%). This decision will be subject to health advice and dependent on hospitalisations continuing to decline and availability of the private hospital sector to support public hospitals to manage COVID-19 response. 

 

27 January 2022

 

Pandemic Code Brown to support hospitals

Due to the pressure on Victoria’s hospital system, including severe workforce shortages, a coordinated Code Brown for the COVID-19 Pandemic was instituted throughout public health services in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria from midday 19 January 2022.

Expected to be in place for 4-6 weeks, the Pandemic Code Brown allows health services to configure services to free up more staff and the rapid offload of ambulance patients at emergency departments to get paramedics back on the road quickly. Hospitals may redeploy staff to work in areas of highest clinical priority, and they may ask staff to return from leave (to be managed in consultation with staff).

The system-wide Code was declared in response to a combination of nearing more than 1,500 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, severe workforce shortages, critical supply chain issues and the exhaustion of levers to release capacity across the system.

Click here to read more about Pandemic Code Brown.

 

Essential worker exemptions

The Victorian Government has extended the list of essential workers who may be exempt from close contact quarantine requirements in order to attend work (as long as certain conditions are met) – if it is necessary to prevent significant risk to safe service delivery. Care worker and healthcare worker definitions have been updated.

 

Paid time off for public sector workers

The Victorian Government now offers public sector healthcare and aged care workers paid time off to get their third COVID-19 vaccine dose, as was the arrangement when receiving their first two doses.

Pandemic orders require eligible Victorian healthcare and aged workers to have received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to work onsite. Residential aged care workers must receive their third dose by 1 March, and healthcare workers by 29 March.

 

COVID-19 vaccine third dose eligibility

As of Friday 21 January, all Victorians over the age of 18 have been eligible to get their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after three months.

 

Medi-hotels for low-acuity COVID-19 patients

Two medi-hotels are being set up to help care for the growing number of COVID-19 patients needing lower-level care, easing pressure on Victoria’s hospital system. These facilities will have capacity to provide care for over 300 patients at a time – in partnership with Northern Health and Royal Melbourne Hospital.

 

COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant

The COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant, which reimburses providers for additional eligible costs incurred in managing a direct impact of COVID‑19, has now been extended to 30 June 2022, increasing the total grant funding available to $108.1 million.

 

13 January 2022

Mandatory third vaccine doses for critical workers

New pandemic orders require eligible Victorian healthcare and aged workers to have received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to work onsite. Residential aged care workers must receive their third dose by 1 March, and healthcare workers by 29 March.

 

Rapid antigen test reporting requirements

It is now mandatory to report a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) result to the Department of Health, via the online form or by calling 1800 675 398.

People who test positive on a RAT are subject to the same requirements as confirmed cases from a PCR test – they must isolate immediately for seven days and notify their contacts.

 

Increased use of RATs for screening

National Cabinet and the Victorian Chief Health Officer have approved the use of RATs as an appropriate alternative to a PCR test for the determination of a probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Ambulance transportation and access to care for a patient who has tested positive on a RAT should be managed through the same processes as for those with a positive PCR test. Both PCR and RAT results are acceptable for pre-operative testing purposes.

It is strongly recommended that people undertake a RAT prior to visiting aged care facilities or hospitals.

 

Changes to elective surgery

Elective surgeries have been temporarily reduced to urgent procedures to help hospitals respond to the increasing number of patients with coronavirus. The reductions apply to public health services in Melbourne and Barwon HealthBallarat Health Services campus of Grampians Health, Bendigo HealthGoulburn Valley Health and Latrobe Regional Hospital.

Private hospitals and day procedure centres in Melbourne and private hospitals in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, the Latrobe Valley and Shepparton will also be required to follow these restrictions.

 

Archive of COVID-19 wrap-up


THE BELOW INFORMATION IS FOR ARCHIVE PURPOSES ONLY – you should check the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Health websites for the latest advice and information.


 

Tuesday 31 March 2021

For all health services

Action required

  • Check whether your organisation can access any of the $1.1 billion in health funding announced by the Federal Government on Sunday. Further advice has been provided below by service type.

General

  • The Federal Government yesterday unveiled its $130 billion wage subsidy proposal, to support employers to retain employees during the pandemic. The subsidy will be available to organisations that can demonstrate a 30 per cent reduction in business, once Parliament has passed the subsidy. While this subsidy is not available to public services, there is a possibility that community health services may be eligible, while it should ensure the wider health and social care environment, such as aged care and disability providers, is viable.
  • The Federal Government has launched its new Coronavirus Australia App to give people the latest information on COVID-19 and the responses by the state and federal governments. It is available for free through the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices. The app has been widely downloaded and will likely be the main source of information for a lot of people, including clients and staff.

Hospitals

  • Hospital services should check to see how they can access the recently announced federal health funding for COVID-19.
    • Hospital services can access the expanded telehealth rebates for some consultations by medical specialists, chronic disease management and nurse practitioners, as well as other services.
    • Members with urgent care centres, in particular, will be able to use the telehealth expansion to support service provision with GPs. The GP bulk billing incentive has also been doubled and an incentive payment will be established to ensure practices stay open to provide face-to-face services where they are essential for patients with conditions that can’t be treated through telehealth. The new arrangements will be in place until 30 September 2020, when they will be reviewed.
    • As part of the mental health funding, health workers will get dedicated mental health support through digital platforms. It is not clear what service this is or how much has been invested. The VHA will keep members up to date on this initiative.

Residential aged care

  • Home aged care providers should check to see if they can benefit from the Federal Government’s recent health funding.
    • Part of the mental health funding includes $10 million for the Community Visitors Scheme. The funding will mean extra staff to train volunteer visitors, who will connect with older people in aged care online and by phone, and assist older Australians to keep in touch with the community and loved ones.
    • The telehealth rebate is also available for services to patients in aged care facilities, so providers can use this option to get healthcare for their residents.

Home-care

  • Home aged care providers should check to see if they can benefit from the Federal Government’s recent health funding.
    • Part of the mental health funding includes $10 million for the Community Visitors Scheme. The funding will mean extra staff to train volunteer visitors, who will connect with older people in aged care online and by phone, and assist older Australians to keep in touch with the community and loved ones.

Community health services

  • Community health services should monitor whether they are eligible for the new federal wage subsidy scheme. While most community health funding has been guaranteed so far, should that change, then services may be able to utilise the scheme. Details for the scheme are still be worked on, and will need parliamentary approval, so the VHA will keep services informed.
  • Community health services should ascertain whether they can access any of the Commonwealth Government’s recent health funding.
    • Part of the domestic violence funding is to boost programs that provide support for families affected by family violence, such as men’s behaviour change programs. Services that deliver these services may receive increased funding, but it is not clear how the funding will be allocated. The VHA will keep members up to date on this funding.
    • As part of the mental health funding, health workers will get dedicated mental health support through digital platforms. It is not clear what service this is or how much has been invested. The VHA will keep members up to date on this initiative.
    • Community health services can also access the expanded telehealth rebates. It applies to GP services, mental health treatment, chronic disease management, and other allied health activity. The GP bulk billing incentive has been doubled for GPs and an incentive payment will be established to ensure practices stay open to provide face-to-face services where essential. The new arrangements will be in place until 30 September 2020, when they will be reviewed.

 

Wednesday 1 April

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government Cyber Incident Response Service Unit (CIRS) and DHHS are warning that COVID-19-related cyber threats are increasing, including some purporting to be from DHHS. Cyber criminals are phishing, spear phishing and creating thousands of fake webpages, including references to COVID-19, to trick providers into giving sensitive information. The DHHS advice is:
    • If you receive an email from a source claiming to be DHHS or another institution:
      • Do not open or respond to the email
      • Do not download any attachments or click on any links
      • Provide a screenshot to your IT service provider
      • Do not delete the email, until instructed by your IT service provider.
    • If you receive a phone call or SMS with threats of cancellation of services or requesting information or payment:
      • Hang up and do not respond to the request
      • Contact your IT service provider
      • Contact the relevant institution, if appropriate.
  • The Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 have been updated by the Victorian Government. COVID-19 is now a notifiable condition for Schedule 3 and 4, with health practitioners and pathology services needing to notify DHHS immediately. Contact details are available here, under ‘Novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) / COVID-19 – Urgent’. Services should ensure medical practitioners are aware of the requirement.
  • Health services, where applicable, should ensure that doctors are reminded that when testing healthcare workers, pathology slips should be marked with ‘HCW’ to ensure the swabs can be easily identified for priority testing.

General

  • The private health sector will be funded to be part of the health response to COVID-19, with the Federal Government providing half the funding. Health Minister Greg Hunt made the announcement on Tuesday. States and territories will shortly finalise partnership arrangements to incorporate private providers into their COVID-19 response. The integrated partnership will bring over 30,000 beds into the public health system. A third of intensive care units are within the private hospital system and will be made available, with 57,000 nurses and midwives also being repurposed, as part of the public-private deal, to ensure medical staff will be available for the necessary ICU beds.
    • The VHA will keep members updated on how this impacts them once the Victorian partnership agreement has been finalised.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 4 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 968 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 51 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. It is the lowest one day rise in 10 days.
    • 39 infections are thought to have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 32 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
    • 15 healthcare workers in Victoria have, so far, been infected by the virus.
  • Over 47,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 4,700 cases, with 20 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Other hospital activity will not receive the PPE stemming from today’s announcement – it has been procured solely for ICU purposes. This means some hospital services will not receive any of the funding or supplies announced today. Separate supplies of PPE from the Commonwealth and Victorian governments are available to hospital services for non-ICU activity.

Residential aged care

  • DHHS is hosting a live stream webinar for Victorian residential aged care providers on COVID-19 and supporting worker wellbeing in the aged care sector. The webinar is Thursday 2 April 2020, 12:00pm to 1:00pm. Topics to be discussed include:
    • Reducing the risk of transmission through hand hygiene, cleaning surfaces and equipment and social distancing;
    • How to obtain and use PPE;
    • Reducing the personal risk of contracting coronavirus; and
    • Emotional and psychological wellbeing during periods of stress.
  • Register for the webinar here.

Community health services

  • Community health services are not eligible for any of the health funding announced today, including the PPE.

2 April

For all health services

General

  • The Victorian Government yesterday announced $1.3 billion in new health funding to support the provision of an additional 4000 intensive care unit (ICU) spaces. The bulk of this announcement is for ordering $1.2 billion worth of equipment and consumables associated with use of the additional 4000 spaces, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), including 551 million gloves, 100 million masks and 14.5 million gowns. The announcement also includes over $65 million for capital works, with work at the Alfred, Monash and the Austin Hospitals to create another 300 new ICU beds, as well as workforce training. The investment is to ensure that Victoria is prepared for a worst case scenario. Further detail on the announcement is available here.
  • The Victorian Government has launched a new initiative to increase the clinical and non-clinical workforce in the Victorian health system, in response to the demands of COVID-19. Expressions of interest can be made here. Applicants could be contacted up to October 2020. Details are unknown on how these new workers will be allocated across the system, however, the VHA will keep members updated.
  • The Commonwealth Government has also announced that it will fund up to 20,000 registered nurses to undertake online courses to prepare for deployment in intensive care wards during the coronavirus pandemic. The Government is also funding up to 10,000 refresher courses for out-of-work nurses to bolster the health sector. The value of this funding is $4.1 million.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 6 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1038 people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 68 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 57 infections are now thought to have been acquired through untraceable community transmission. This is a 46 per cent increase on yesterday’s figures.
    • 36 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
    • 15 healthcare workers in Victoria have, so far, been infected by the virus.
  • Over 47,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 5,000 cases, with 24 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Following yesterday’s funding announcement, hospital services that have ICU spaces can expect to receive the additional equipment, particularly the PPE, but it is unclear how it will be allocated. The VHA will keep members informed when it becomes aware of how this will happen.

Residential aged care

  • The Department of Health has released the first module in a new eLearning program for aged care workers on appropriate health management techniques in all aged care settings. The first module on personal safety can be accessed here.
    • More modules are expected to be released and will be available on the platform.

Home-care

  • The Department of Health has released the first module in a new eLearning program for aged care workers on appropriate health management techniques in all aged care settings. The first module on personal safety can be accessed here.
    • More modules are expected to be released and will be available on the platform.

 

Friday 3 April

For all health services

Action required

  • The Commonwealth Government has released a COVID-19 guide to assist Home Care and Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) providers who provide home aged care. Further information for services is in the relevant service sections below.
  • The case definition for COVID-19 has changed, with a greater focus on community cases as the number of overseas arrivals diminishes. Services should ensure that staff are aware and acting on the update. See the Health services and general practice – coronavirus disease (COVID-19) page for updated information, including the new Quick Reference Guide and Guidelines for health services and general practitioners.

General

  • The Commonwealth Government has announced an additional $800m in funding for masks and other emergency medical equipment to address shortages in personal protective gear for health workers. The funding was drawn from the government’s advance fund, a legislated funding source of last resort, which enables the finance minister to withdraw money from the government’s consolidated revenue fund.
  • The Victorian Government has signed a partnership with the state’s major private hospital operators to use the Victorian private health sector in the state’s response to COVID-19. As part of the agreement, the Victorian Government recently hired 200 nurses from Epworth and Cabrini hospitals to undertake contact-tracing. The Victorian Government is continuing to talk to smaller private hospitals and day procedure centres about extra capacity they might be able to provide when the peak of the pandemic hits.
    • The deal follows a guarantee from the Commonwealth to ensure the viability of all private hospitals after the suspension of all non-urgent surgery, providing half the funding to support these agreements.
    • The VHA will keep members updated on potential implications if and when the agreement is published.
  • The Victorian Government has made changes to how vaccines can be dispensed to support the health system’s response to COVID-19. Victorian pharmacists can now administer approved vaccinations outside of their normal location, such as through the mobile and outreach services of a hospital, pharmacy or pharmacy depot, while appropriately trained pharmacists can now administer the flu shot to children 10 years of age and older. Pharmacists will also be able to administer the measles-mumps-rubella, meningococcal ACWY and whooping cough-containing vaccines to people 15 years of age and older.
  • The Commonwealth Government has announced a free child care initiative for those that need childcare during COVID-19. The initiative is expected to benefit up to 1 million families, who will not pay any childcare fees. Essential workers, such as healthcare workers, will be prioritised for the scheme. The initial funding covers the first three months of the scheme, but the scheme will be in place for at least six months to support families through the COVID-19 crisis.
    • The VHA will keep members up to date as further information on how the initiative will operate becomes available.
  • The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and national boards have announced a new sub-register to fast-track the return of recently-departed health personnel to support the COVID-19 response. The register will run for 12 months and cater to doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists who have stopped practising in the last three years – it will only be available to those who are properly qualified and suitable. More than 40,000 practitioners who meet the criteria will be alerted that they will be added to the new sub-register, with those unwilling to return able to opt-out. It is expected the sub-register will be operational by 6 April.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 7 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1085 people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 49 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 62 infections have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 37 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 7 requiring ICU care.
    • Over 100 healthcare workers in Victoria have, so far, been infected by the virus.
    • Over 51,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 5,200 cases, with 27 deaths.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released an FAQ document on the restrictions on entry into and visitors to aged care facilities, which is available here.

Home-care

  • CHSP providers are now allowed to re-allocate funding across the Aged Care Planning Regions (ACPRs) in which they operate on a time-limited basis. CHSP providers have already been given full flexibility to allocate 2019-20 and 2020-21 funds between the different service types. Any reallocation should ensure:
    • Providers can return to their current regional footprint and service mix after the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Providers must not leave a service gap in an area they are operating in.
    • Existing providers in an area are not already ramping up to meet the perceived need.
    • Providers still only allocate resources to services they are funded to deliver.

Community health services

  • CHSP providers are also now allowed to re-allocate funding across the Aged Care Planning Regions (ACPRs) in which they operate on a time-limited basis. CHSP providers have already been given full flexibility to allocate 2019-20 and 2020-21 funds between the different service types. Any reallocation should ensure:
    • Providers can return to their current regional footprint and service mix after the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Providers must not leave a service gap in an area they are operating in.
    • Existing providers in an area are not already ramping up to meet the perceived need.
    • Providers still only allocate resources to services they are funded to deliver.

6 April

For all health services

Action required

  • DHHS requires all Victorian public health services and public hospitals to commence their influenza vaccination program for all healthcare workers as soon as possible, before the designated start date for the Healthcare Worker Influenza Immunisation program (14 April). The target for the Healthcare Worker Influenza Immunisation Program for 2020 is 90 per cent, however, with a mandatory vaccination policy set to begin next year, DHHS is asking services to aim for a 100 per cent influenza immunisation rate for ‘front line’ staff. While the legislation is not yet defined, these are likely to be those staff that fall under the Category A/B risk category as detailed in the VICNISS HCW Influenza Immunisation protocols. For further information, click here.

General

  • The Victorian Government has established a Crisis Council of Cabinet (CCC), which will be the core decision making forum for the Victorian Government on all matters related to COVID-19, including implementing the outcomes of the National Cabinet. It will operate initially until 30 September 2020 and will then be reviewed. The Premier will chair the CCC and it will include the following Ministers coordinating these areas:
    • James Merlino: Education and Training
    • Tim Pallas: Treasury and Finance
    • Jacinta Allan: Transport
    • Jenny Mikakos: Health and Human Services
    • Jill Hennessy: Justice and Community Safety
    • Martin Pakula: Jobs, Precincts and Regions
    • Lisa Neville: Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • The senior levels of the Victorian Public Service will also be structured to align with these new coordinating responsibilities. Departmental Secretaries will appoint Associate Secretaries to run the day-to-day administration of their departments, allowing the Secretaries to lead teams focused on the pandemic response. Services should not change their approach to engagement with DHHS.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have now been 10 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1158 people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 23 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 88 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 45 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 11 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 57,000 Victorians have been tested.
    In Australia, overall, there have been over 5,700 cases, with 40 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Services should ascertain whether there is an opportunity to use the changes on pharmacists dispensing vaccines to support the COVID-19 response by ensuring appropriate vaccination.

Community health services

  • Services should ascertain whether there is an opportunity to use the changes on pharmacists dispensing vaccines to support the COVID-19 response by ensuring appropriate vaccination.
  • Other resources are available to assist the sector including online training modules and a collection of guides and fact sheets. These are being updated as the situation evolves.

 

7 April

 

For all health services

Action required

  • Services with pharmacies should be aware of the new interim arrangements for prescriptions to support telehealth, which have been expanded in response to COVID-19. Under the arrangements, patients can get a prescription from their GP directly sent to their pharmacy of choice via email or phone and their medication can be delivered to their door. The Commonwealth Government is working with doctor and pharmacy software providers to upgrade clinical software so that it supports electronic prescribing, which is expected to be ready by May 2020. More information on the implementation is available here.
  • New COVID-19 resources at a state level have been developed to provide guidance to GPs and health services, including chronic disease management and palliative and end of life care. Services should ensure that staff are utilising the latest relevant advice and guidance.

General

  • The Victorian Government has established a Crisis Council of Cabinet (CCC), which will be the core decision making forum for the Victorian Government on all matters related to COVID-19, including implementing the outcomes of the National Cabinet. It will operate initially until 30 September 2020 and will then be reviewed.
  • The senior levels of the Victorian Public Service will also be structured to align with these new coordinating responsibilities. Departmental Secretaries will appoint Associate Secretaries to run the day-to-day administration of their departments, allowing the Secretaries to lead teams focused on the pandemic response. Services should not change their approach to engagement with DHHS.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have now been 11 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1191 people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 33 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 93 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 134 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 13 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 57,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • Over 140 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 5,800 cases, with 46 deaths.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released a guide to outbreak management, which services should use. This resource outlines how to identify if there is an outbreak at your facility and the steps to take to manage the outbreak.
    • Download the information sheet here.

Home-care

  • Aged home care and CHSP providers should use the advice in the new COVID-19 guide.
    • The guide provides information and guidance on how to stay safe from COVID-19 including how providers can prepare their organisation, equipment and resources, and how staff and clients can manage COVID-19.
    • Other resources are available to assist the sector including online training modules and a collection of guides and fact sheets. These are being updated as the situation evolves.

 

Community health services

  • Community health services that are CHSP providers should utilise the advice in the new COVID-19 guide.
    • The guide provides information and guidance on how to stay safe from COVID-19 including how providers can prepare their organisation, equipment and resources, and how staff and clients can manage COVID-19.
    • Other resources are available to assist the sector including online training modules and a collection of guides and fact sheets. These are being updated as the situation evolves.

 

8 April

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has announced that term 2 for public schools will begin on Wednesday 15 April, but that the focus will be on delivering education remotely for the entire term. All students who can learn from home must learn from home. Schools will be open for those with digital issues and those whose parents are unable to supervise them, due to being essential workers. Services should ensure that staff are aware of this option.

General

  • The Commonwealth Government has announced today that 11 million masks will be dispersed. Of this:
    • 7 million will go to hospitals
    • 2.3 million will go to primary health network (including 1.5 million to GP practices)
    • 160,000 will go to respiratory clinics
    • 75,000 will go to Aboriginal community control health organisations
    • 500,000 will go to pharmacies
    • 1.7 million masks will go to the aged care sector.
  • The Commonwealth Government yesterday released its COVID-19 modelling, which is available here. This should not impact how services are delivering care or preparations they have made to deliver care – the modelling is theoretical rather than a prediction.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 12 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1212 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 21 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 101 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 45 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 12 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 60,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 151 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been nearly 6,000 cases, with 50 deaths.

Residential aged care

Home-care

 

 

Thursday 9 April

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has eased restrictions around prescriptions. GPs can now email pharmacists copies of Schedule 4 prescriptions for patients who are self-isolating at home. Pharmacists may then be able to arrange home delivery of the medication. Services should use this if this is applicable to their activity.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released advice for essential workers considered vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 (including people aged 70 and over, people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 with one or more chronic medical conditions).
    • Care workers who fall in the above groups (including, but not limited to, nurses, allied health professionals, catering, cleaning and support staff) can continue to attend work, if health risks can be mitigated. A risk assessment must be undertaken and if these risks cannot be mitigated, alternative arrangements should be considered.
    • Services should implement this advice for relevant staff members if they have not already done so.
  • The Commonwealth Government has updated advice for aged and health care workers. Further information is in the relevant service sections below. Services should ensure staff are aware of the updated advice.
  • Services should ensure staff are acting on the updated Quick Reference Guide and Guidelines for health services and general practitioners released on Sunday. The new information includes changes to requirements for returning to work post-infection and a greater focus on testing people who have worked in public facing roles within the past 14 days.

General

  • Emergency powers have been enacted allowing the Federal Minister for Health to exempt ventilators from parts of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 which ensure conformance with safety and performance requirements. The Commonwealth Government has set a national target to have 7,500 ventilators in Australia, having procured an extra 2,000 ventilators from an Australian consortium that will be delivered by the end of July 2020. There are currently approximately 4,400 ventilators in Australia. The powers will be in place until 31 January 2021.
  • The Commonwealth Government has passed the legislation for the ‘JobKeeper’ program, which will support businesses to retain staff during the pandemic. Public health services will not be eligible for the payment, but community health services may be. These services should ascertain whether they will meet the criteria based on information in the relevant service section below.
  • The Victorian Government has launched its new ‘Homes to Heroes’ program so hospital workers and paramedics have access to free accommodation if they need to self-isolate. Hospital workers who test positive for coronavirus, and those that have had unanticipated and unprotected contact with a person suspected of having coronavirus, will be put up in hotels or apartments to self-isolate. The accommodation will be available to clinical and non-clinical staff at public and private hospitals that directly engage with patients, as well as frontline paramedics and patient transport staff. DHHS is currently assessing possible locations. The VHA will keep members updated on how staff can access this accommodation once that information becomes available.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 12 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,228 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 16 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 110 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 50 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 13 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 62,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 156 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,000 cases, with 51 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Hospital services should ensure that staff are aware of revised advice from the Commonwealth on non-inpatient care of people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, including use of personal protective equipment (PPE). The information is available here.

Residential aged care

 

  • Services should ensure that staff are aware of the Commonwealth Government’s updated fact sheet for residential aged care workers. That information is available here.

Home-care

  • Services should ensure that relevant staff are aware of the updated fact sheet from the Commonwealth Government for in-home care workers. That information is available here.
  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will be contacting all approved providers of home-care services by telephone to monitor and support them in their preparation for a COVID-19 outbreak.
    • This assessment contact will involve a regulatory official from the Commission contacting the provider to discuss their responsibilities under the Aged Care Quality Standards, focussing on infection control.
    • The telephone call is not an assessment of performance against the Standards.

 

Community health services

  • Community health services should ascertain whether they will be eligible for the new ‘JobKeeper’ program. Charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (ACNC) will be eligible for the subsidy if they estimate their turnover has or will likely fall by 15 per cent or more relative to a comparable period. This would enable services to claim a payment of $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum period of 6 months.
  • Services should ensure that relevant staff are aware of the updated fact sheet from the Commonwealth Government for in-home care workers. That information is available here.

 

14 April

 

For all health services

Action required

  • Services should ensure staff are acting on the updated Quick Reference Guide and Guidelines for health services and general practitioners, which have been updated.
  • The Victorian Chief Medical Officer last week extended the aged care facilities direction. These restrictions now encompass care facilities, including alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities, disability residential care and homelessness residential facilities. More information is available here. Relevant services should implement the direction.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 14 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,291 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 122 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 40 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 15 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 71,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 162 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,300 cases, with 51 deaths.

Residential aged care

 

  • Services are reminded that grant opportunities for the Business Improvement Fund for residential aged care are open.
    • Providers can apply for grant assistance to improve business operations, support the sale of a facility to another provider, or closure where no other options are available.
      Applications must be submitted via GrantConnect by 15 May 2020. For more information, and to submit your application form, visit the GrantConnect website.

 

Community health services

  • Services that run a care facility should be aware of and implement the recently extended direction from the Victorian Chief Medical Officer.

 

15 April

For all health services

Action required

  • Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA) and the End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) program are hosting a series of webinars during April for various health sector audiences, including aged care, GPs and hospitals. The webinar series will allow frontline staff to question experts within the aged care and specialist palliative care sectors. For more information on the ACPA webinars click here, and for more information on the ELDAC webinars click here. Services should ensure relevant staff are aware of these webinars.

General

  • Legislation has also been announced to reform residential and commercial tenancy laws during the pandemic as part of a $500 million package, including introducing a temporary ban on evictions, pausing rental increases for six months, and providing land tax relief for landlords and rent relief for tenants experiencing financial hardship.
    • The VHA will monitor the parliamentary proceedings, and keep members updated.
  • The State of Emergency in Victoria was extended until midnight on 11 May 2020 and all current directions and restrictions from the Victorian Chief Medical Officer remain in effect.
  • The Victorian Government on Sunday announced new funding to support Victoria’s mental health system during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a wide-ranging $59.4 million package. The highlights included:
    • $17.8 million to begin the roll out of 170 extra youth and adult acute mental health beds – a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
    • Nearly $7 million to help mental health services deliver supports for people with severe mental illness via phone and video, to prevent relapse and ED presentations.
    • Phones and extra data to be provided to vulnerable and high-risk clients of public mental health services, along with equipment and IT grants for community managed mental health services to offer their services remotely.
  • The VHA has welcomed the announcement, with the VHA’s statement available here – for a full breakdown of the funding initiatives, click here. The VHA will provide more information on the funding initiatives and how they will affect services as the information becomes available.
  • Older Australians who have suspended aged-care home services during the COVID-19 pandemic will receive welfare checks under a new national response. More information on how services can engage with the scheme is in the relevant sections below.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 14 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,299 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 8 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 132 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 39 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 18 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 72,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 162 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,400 cases, with 62 deaths.

Hospitals

Residential aged care

  • A new flowchart on when to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in aged care has been developed. Download the printable attachment here.

Home-care

  • Following last week’s announcement of support and welfare for older people refusing home care due to COVID-19, Home Care Package and CHSP providers can now refer relevant cases to the Older Person Advocacy Network. Referrals can also be made for people who may need additional aged care support related to COVID-19 restrictions so their needs can be responded to as quickly as possible.
    • Providers can refer care recipients who cancel or defer services via this quick web form. The web form will require a password which can be obtained through aged care provider peak organisations or by calling 1800 237 981.
  • A new flowchart on when to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in aged care has been developed. Download the printable attachment here.

 

Community health services

  • Following last week’s announcement of support and welfare for older people refusing home care due to COVID-19, Home Care Package and CHSP providers can now refer relevant cases to the Older Person Advocacy Network. Referrals can also be made for people who may need additional aged care support related to COVID-19 restrictions so their needs can be responded to as quickly as possible.
    • Providers can refer care recipients who cancel or defer services via this quick web form. The web form will require a password which can be obtained through aged care provider peak organisations or by calling 1800 237 981.

 

16 April

 

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has established the Health and Community Services Emergency Food Strategy Group to ensure that cooked meals continue to be available to health and community services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has established an emergency food bank using public hospital providers, which will be provided to health and community services when meal preparation capability is significantly disrupted due to COVID-19. Services can get more information on the group and accessing their support here.
  • All COVID-19 testing in Victoria will now be based only on clinical symptoms, regardless of age, occupation or any epidemiological criteria. Health and emergency workers should continue to be prioritised. All services should ensure their staff are aware of this change.
  • Additional workforce contingency measures to ensure aged care provision during COVID-19 have been announced. The measures include procuring emergency response teams, remote locums and access to the online platform Mable. Relevant services should be aware of the announcement and engage as required.

General

  • The Victorian Government has announced that 120 additional paramedics will be recruited to support the COVID-19 response. The announcement included additional resources for Ambulance Victoria’s Adult Retrieval Victoria, which will expand its 24-hour telephone advice service to provide telehealth, regional clinical support, co-ordination and critical care retrieval for the next six months.
  • The Victorian Government has announced that there will be an emergency parliamentary sitting on Thursday 23 April 2020 to pass COVID-19-related legislation, with a reduced number of parliamentarians and staff. This emergency legislation includes urgent appropriation bills to ensure payment to healthcare workers, as well as rental relief for landlords and renters. The VHA will monitor the parliamentary proceedings, and keep members updated.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 14 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
    • 1,301 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 2 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 132 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 39 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 18 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 73,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 157 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,450 cases, with 63 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Applicable hospitals should look to work with Adult Retrieval Victoria to utilise their increased capacity and support during the interim period.

Residential aged care

  • Residential aged care services should utilise the additional workforce and food support as required.

Home-care

  • Home-care services should utilise the additional workforce and food support as required.

 

17 April

 

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has released more advice on its ‘Hotels for Heroes’ program, otherwise known as the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Accommodation (CHEA) program. Referrals will be made by health services, so services should establish processes to connect staff with the scheme.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released a 30-minute online training module for health care workers in all settings. Available here, it covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19. Services should make staff aware of this as necessary.

General

  • Yesterday the Victorian Government announced a $24.5 billion ‘emergency fund’ to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.
    • The funding is on top of the economic and health measures already announced.
    • The funding will be appropriated in supply bills introduced in Thursday’s special sitting of the Victorian Parliament. The bills will establish a fund that includes $10 billion in the 2019-20 financial year and $14.5 billion in 2020-21. The supply bills will also include general government funding and the annual capital appropriation.
    • The additional spending has been identified to cope with additional demand on the health system and to generate economic activity post-shutdown.
    • As previously stated, the VHA will monitor the special sitting of Parliament and keep members updated.
  • The Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos has confirmed the trend for infection rates is heading in the right direction, however, there will be no change to Victoria’s restrictions over the next month. The Minister also signalled that she is ‘relatively optimistic’ that stage four restrictions won’t be necessary.
  • The Prime Minister has advised that restrictions will remain in place for at least another four weeks, with the possibility of easing them. Easing the restrictions is contingent on increased testing, larger scale contact tracing and localised lockdown ability.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 14 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,302 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 2 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 136 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 32 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 13 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 75,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 157 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,450 cases, with 64 deaths.

 

 

20 April

 

For all health services

Action required

  • On Thursday, the National Cabinet agreed to release and implement the Management and Operational Plan for COVID-19 for People with Disability. The plan addresses factors such as the reliance on close contact with carers and support workers, having a compromised immune system, and the presence of multiple underlying health conditions. This living document will be updated periodically as new evidence emerges and is available here. Relevant services should ensure that they are following the guidance.
  • The Victorian Government has updated its advice for pregnant healthcare workers, recommending a precautionary approach. Before 28 weeks’ gestation, healthcare workers should avoid areas where there are suspected cases of COVID-19, clinical areas or any other areas where aerosol generating procedures are performed. After 28 weeks’ gestation, they should not be in roles with direct patient contact. Services should ensure this is implemented.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 15 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19, with 1 death over the weekend.
  • 1,329 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 1 new case of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, but 27 additional cases since Friday.
    • 136 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 38 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 11 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 86,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 157 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,600 cases with 70 deaths.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has asked Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to assist in the coordination of flu vaccinations in their region for residential aged care services.
    • PHNs will contact all residential aged care providers by region to undertake a needs assessment and coordinate influenza vaccination programs for those services with an identified need.
    • The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has recommended all residential aged care staff and visitors be vaccinated by 1 May 2020.

 

Tuesday 21 April

For all health services

General

  • The Commonwealth Government has received 58 million protective face masks for frontline health workers. These have arrived earlier than the scheduled delivery date and in greater numbers. The Commonwealth Government has said that these masks will help with the preparation of a staged resumption of elective surgery procedures. Masks from the national stockpile will continue to be distributed as needed by the States and Territories, and by Primary Health Networks.
  • The Victorian Government have released state-based modelling which shows staying at home and other physical distancing requirements are working to slow the spread of COVID-19. The modelling can be found here.
  • The Commonwealth Government has announced a $52.8 million aeromedical retrieval package to support rural and remote communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will enable the Royal Flying Doctor Service to help evacuation, deliver fly-in General Practitioner Respiratory Clinics, and provide personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 15 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19. This number has not increased since the weekend.
  • 1,336 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 7 new case of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 138 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 28 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 12 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 88,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 157 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,600 cases with 71 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Services should prepare for the resumption of elective surgery.

Residential aged care

  • Services should prepare for changes in the state’s aged care restrictions directive.

 

22 April

For all health services

Action required

  • The National Cabinet agreement to lift some restrictions on elective surgery after Anzac Day will lead to a re-opening of approximately 25 per cent of elective surgery activity across the health system. This has been positioned as a ‘gradual restart’ for elective surgery, with the situation to be reviewed on 11 May 2020.
  • The Victorian Government have released two updated guidelines for health services. Services should ensure that staff are aware and utilising these resources.
  • The Commonwealth Government is enabling pharmacists to undertake a MedsCheck, Diabetes MedsCheck, Home Medicines Review or Residential Medication Management Review via telehealth. Where a patient has been identified as eligible, according to the relevant program rules, medication reviews can take place via video or teleconference from 21 April 2020. This follows the release of guides for getting prescription medications via telehealth for:

General

  • The Victorian Government has released new modelling on the potential economic impact of the pandemic. The modelling, undertaken by the Department of Treasury and Finance, finds the crisis could lead to:
    • 270,000 jobs being lost.
    • The unemployment rate peaking at 11 per cent in the September quarter.
    • The Gross State Product declining by 14 per cent in the June quarter.
    • Property prices falling by up to nine per cent by the end of 2020.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 15 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,336 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 2 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours – 2 cases were also removed and added to interstate tallies.
    • 135 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 29 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 12 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 90,000 Victorians have been tested.
  • 163 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,650 cases with 74 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Hospital services should ensure that staff are aware of any updated guidelines and training.

Home-care

Community health services

  • Community health services should ensure that staff are aware of any updated guidelines.

 

23 April

 

For all health services

General

  • The VHA is monitoring these proceedings, along with the Commonwealth Senate Select Committee hearing on COVID-19. The COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 legislation and explanatory memorandum are available here and here.
  • The Commonwealth Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, has launched the Critical Health Resource Information System (CHRIS), which will operate in all public and private hospitals with Intensive Care Units (ICU). The national system will provide live data on available ICU beds and associated equipment across Australia, to ensure critically unwell patients can access the right resources. CHRIS was developed in conjunction with the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS), Ambulance Victoria and Telstra Purple.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There was an additional death overnight. This brings the total to 16 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,337 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 1 new case of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 135 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 27 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 10 requiring ICU care.
    • Over 93 per cent of those diagnosed have now recovered – there are 86 known active cases in the state.
  • Over 93,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 163 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,650 cases with 75 deaths.

 

24 April

For all health services

Action required

  • A cluster of 14 people diagnosed with COVID-19 has been linked to an unnamed private inpatient psychiatric facility. Further testing will be undertaken to ensure no further spread, while an investigation has been initiated. Services are reminded to stay vigilant and to maintain current standards and restrictions.
  • The Commonwealth Government is making further changes to student visa work conditions to help boost frontline health efforts. International students studying relevant medical courses will be exempt from the 40-hour per fortnight work limit. International students currently working for registered disability service providers will also be exempt. Relevant services should consider using these changes if further staff support is required.
  • The National Cabinet has also announced that restrictions on all visits to aged care homes will be lifted in states so that there can be two visits per day by close relatives and support people. In Victoria, the current direction for aged care facilities is that there should be only one such visit per day for each resident. It is unclear when the direction will change in Victoria, but services should prepare for this update.

General

  • The Victorian Parliament yesterday met for a special sitting, where the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 was passed with cross-party support. The Bill contains a range of COVID-19 measures, including new temporary changes to the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015. This change allows the Minister for Health to give hospitals more flexibility with nurse-to-patient ratios through a declaration if they are struggling due to COVID-19 pressures. The legislation:
    • Will be automatically repealed after 6 months.
    • Requires the Minister to consult with a relevant union and hospital representative body before issuing a declaration.
    • Sets out that a declaration can apply to one or multiple hospitals and ratios.
  • The previously announced $24.5 billion ‘emergency fund’ to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic was also passed by Parliament yesterday. The legislation has established a fund that includes $10 billion in the 2019-20 financial year and $14.5 billion in 2020-21. The additional spending has been identified to cope with additional demand on the health system and to generate economic activity post-shutdown.
  • The Commonwealth Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 held its first hearing yesterday and focused on a range of issues, including PPE, the Ruby Princess cruise ship and ventilators. The VHA will continue to monitor these hearings and will update members with any pertinent information.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 16 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,343 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 6 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 135 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 27 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 11 requiring ICU care.
    • Over 93 per cent of those diagnosed have now recovered – there are 86 known active cases in the state.
  • Over 96,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 163 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,670 cases with 77 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Services should utilise the lifting of visa restrictions on international students if they require it.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has called on providers to not lockdown facilities from visitations, which is not supported by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) or the National Cabinet.
  • Services should prepare for potential changes to the state’s aged care restrictions directive.
  • The Commonwealth Government have released an updated fact sheet on restrictions to aged care facilities, available here.

Community health services

  • Disability providers should utilise the lifting of visa restrictions on international student employees if they require it.

 

 

Monday 27 April

 

For all health services

Action required

  • Victoria has today lifted restrictions on all Category 2 and selected Category 3 elective surgery procedures. The previously announced elective surgery ‘blitz’ will continue when safe to do so.
    • Examples of procedures to be allowed include IVF, joint replacement, cataracts, breast reconstruction and some dental procedures.
    • Health and community services can now deliver the unrestricted procedures.

General

  • The inaugural meeting of Mental Health Ministers from the Commonwealth and all states and territories was held on Friday to discuss the significant mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Ministers agreed to establish an ongoing State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministerial working group to coordinate their response to COVID-19 and share ideas. This group will meet monthly. The VHA will follow these proceedings and keep members updated.
  • It was also agreed that New South Wales and Victoria would work with Christine Morgan, National Suicide Prevention Adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and the National Mental Health Commission, on a national pandemic mental health plan, which will be presented to the National Cabinet.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 17 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,349 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 1 new case of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, and had a diagnosis transferred to New South Wales. There were 6 additional cases over the weekend.
    • 138 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 23 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 11 requiring ICU care.
    • Over 93 per cent of those diagnosed have now recovered – there are 86 known active cases in the state.
  • Over 104,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria, with over 8,000 tests conducted since Friday.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,711 cases with 83 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Services are now able to resume the delivery of specified elective surgery.
  • Services should prepare for increased testing of their workforce and implement updated guidelines.

Community health services

  • Community health services can now resume the delivery of specified dental procedures.
  • Services should implement the updated prescription guidelines.

 

Tuesday 28 April

 

For all health services

General

  • Victoria will continue to maintain restrictions until the review of its State of Emergency on 11 May 2020. This has been reconfirmed following slight easing of restrictions in other states.
  • The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 is holding its second hearing today, with a focus on the economic response to the pandemic. The VHA is monitoring proceedings and will keep members updated on any key discussions or announcements.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 17 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,351 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 2 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 139 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 23 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 11 requiring ICU care.
    • 1,280 of those diagnosed have now recovered – there are 72 known active cases in the state.
  • Over 109,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,725 cases with 83 deaths.

Residential aged care

  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s Chief Clinical Advisor has written to residential aged care service providers with screening recommendations. The Commission’s screening recommendations for all facilities include:
    • single point of entry
    • screening questions for staff and visitors
    • temperature checks
    • The full letter from the Commission to all providers can be read here.

 

Wednesday 29 April

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has released updated guidelines for health services and general practices. These documents are available here. Services should ensure staff are aware of and implementing the changes including:
  • Updated clinical criteria, with examples of acute respiratory symptoms that should be tested.
  • Updated provisions on testing health and aged care workers.
  • Updated provisions on previously diagnosed health and aged care workers returning to work.
  • The Victorian Government has announced that up to 100,000 Victorians will be tested for COVID-19 over the next two weeks.
    • Certain industries still operating at full capacity will be targeted for testing, including healthcare and aged care workers. Major employers and unions will be supported to actively promote testing to all staff.
    • In addition, workers without symptoms in hospitals and other facilities with vulnerable residents will be asked to voluntarily participate in sample testing as part of new research in line with the pre-requisites set out by the National Cabinet.
    • Services should prepare for increased testing of staff.

General

  • The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is calling for submissions on the impact of COVID-19 on the aged care sector. The Commissioners would like to receive submissions from recipients of aged care services, families or supporters of recipients, aged care service providers, and aged care staff. The Royal Commission has a deadline for public submissions of 30 June 2020. Further information is available here.
  • The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 held its second hearing yesterday, with a focus on the economic response to the pandemic. The hearing heard:
    • 511,000 companies have enrolled on the JobKeeper program.
    • 757,000 people have accessed their superannuation early.
    • 160,000 people applied for JobSeeker between 21 March and 31 March.
  • The Commonwealth Government’s COVID-19 tracing application, COVIDSafe, has been downloaded more than 2.8 million times since its launch. The app, which is voluntary to download, helps to track close contacts of people diagnosed with COVID-19. The Commonwealth Government has closely tied the ability to track any outbreaks as a condition for easing restrictions. Click here to download and access more information on COVIDSafe.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,354 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 3 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 139 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 18 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 9 requiring ICU care.
    • 1,287 of those diagnosed have now recovered and there are 67 known active cases.
  • Over 111,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,731 cases with 89 deaths.

 

Thursday 30 April

 

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government yesterday issued an order limiting the sale and supply of hydroxychloroquine to medical practitioners or dentists continuing to treat patients for a registered indication. Hydroxychloroquine is a medicine used to treat malaria and some autoimmune diseases. Unsubstantiated claims that it can treat COVID-19 have led to a shortage. Further information is available here.
  • Updated guidance for hospitals on the use of PPE has been released and is available here. The Commonwealth Government has also released updated guides for issuing prescriptions via telehealth for prescribers and pharmacists, available here.

General

  • The Victorian Government has today announced that six new mobile COVID-19 testing sites have opened as part of the Victorian Government’s testing blitz. The new sites are located at Bunnings West Footscray, Pacific Werribee, Pacific Epping, Watergardens Town Centre, Westfield Fountain Gate and Bayside Shopping Centre in Frankston. A further four mobile testing sites were opened yesterday at Chadstone, Doncaster, Highpoint and Northland shopping centres.
    • The testing sites will provide a one-stop shop, with doctors, nurses and pathologist collection on-site. Additional sites in regional and suburban locations will open shortly.
  • The Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday confirmed that a national pandemic mental health plan will be rolled out shortly, with a focus on better co-ordinating service delivery.
    • Victoria, along with New South Wales, has been working with Christine Morgan, National Suicide Prevention Adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and the National Mental Health Commission, on the national pandemic mental health plan.
    • The plan will be presented to the National Cabinet tomorrow.
  • The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 is holding another hearing today, with a focus on the social response to the pandemic, including disability. The VHA will monitor proceedings and update members accordingly.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,361 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 7 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 140 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 18 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 9 requiring ICU care.
    • 1,287 of those diagnosed have now recovered and there are 67 known active cases.
  • Over 115,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,750 cases with 90 deaths.
    • There have only been 10 cases identified in the past 24 hours.
    • 556,000 tests have been carried out across the country
    • 3.31 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Residential aged care

  • A webinar for Victorian residential aged care is being held tomorrow, Friday 1 May 2020, at 3pm. The webinar will focus on COVID-19 and supporting resident emotional and psychosocial wellbeing during this period. Register for free to attend this webinar here.
  • The Commonwealth Government has developed a dedicated pathology service for rapid sample collection and testing for suspected cases of COVID-19 in residential aged care facilities. This service, which will be bulk-billed, will be available until 30 September 2020.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Department of Health has entered into discussions with large commercial meal producers and distributors to support CHSP meals providers.

Community health services

  • Services should implement the updated prescription guidelines.

Friday 1 May

For all health services

General

  • It has been announced that more than 20,000 nurses have registered to complete an additional critical care course, while more than 3,000 nurses returning to the workforce will complete a refresher course. These initiatives were announced by the Commonwealth Government in early April.
  • The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 held another hearing yesterday day, with a focus on the social response to the pandemic, including disability. It heard that more than 1.3 million people are now receiving unemployment benefits across Australia, an increase of about 450,000 in less than one month. It is anticipated 1.7 million people will be receiving the JobSeeker payment until September.
  • Negotiations are underway to finalise the location of five Australian hospitals to receive the highly sought-after experimental COVID-19 drug, remdesivir. One study has shown it to moderately shorten the period of illness to 11 days from 15 days.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,364 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 3 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 140 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 16 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 7 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 123,500 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,770 cases with 93 deaths.
    • There have only been 16 cases identified in the past 24 hours.
    • 570,000 tests have been carried out across the country
    • 3.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Hospitals

  • Relevant services should prepare to implement the new training principles.

Monday 4 May

For all health services

Action required

  • The Commonwealth Government has worked with the health sector and higher education sector to develop a set of national principles to guide clinical education during the pandemic. The National Principles for Clinical Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic are available here.
  • The Hotel for Heroes program, which provides accommodation for frontline health workers that need to self-isolate, is now open to those in primary care, community-based pharmacy and public sector residential aged care settings. Further information for staff is available here.

General

  • The Commonwealth Government, on Friday, announced a one-off payment of $205 million into the aged care sector to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is aimed at covering the additional costs of caring for the health and wellbeing of residents during the pandemic. The payment will be linked to the number of residents at a facility and will be for all Commonwealth funded residential aged care providers. The new payment will be provided through Services Australia and will be made by early June.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,406 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 22 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. 42 new cases have been recorded since Friday.
    • 143 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 11 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 150,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • Over 13,000 tests were carried out yesterday.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,825 cases with 96 deaths.
    • Over 4.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Hospitals

  • Relevant services should prepare to implement the new training principles.

Residential aged care

  • The Victorian Government has released updated advice on flu vaccinations for residential aged care staff and visitors, available here.

 

Tuesday 5 May

 

Action required

  • Services are asked to remain vigilant and maintain effective processes.
  • The Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas, has announced an additional $491 million in tax relief for businesses in Victoria. Businesses which are eligible for the JobKeeper program will not pay payroll tax or WorkCover premiums on staff currently stood down.
  • The Victorian Government has achieved over half of its 100,000 testing target for the fortnight, with over 55,000 samples collected in a week.
    • The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is asking services to promote the updated testing criteria to staff and clients and encourage anyone with symptoms to be tested.
    • The Victorian Government released updated guidelines for health services and general practices last week, including clinical criteria. These documents are available here.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released a factsheet on the fourth tranche of PPE distribution through PHNs, with advice for general practice, community pharmacy, and allied health professionals, available here. Relevant services should ensure that staff have adequate access to these resources.

General

  • The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 is holding another hearing today – it is expected to focus primarily on the Ruby Princess debacle. The VHA will monitor proceedings and update members on any relevant news.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,423 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 17 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 143 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 12 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 152,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,849 cases with 96 deaths.
    • Over 4.9 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released updated national guidelines for COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care facilities in Australia, available here, as well as a fact sheet on flu vaccination requirements for entry to facilities, accessible here.
  • The Victorian Government has released a poster on flu vaccinations for residential aged care facilities, available here.

 

 

 

Wednesday 6 May

 

For all health services

General

  • The Victorian Chief Health Officer has today signalled in interviews that restrictions will be eased next week.
    • The National Cabinet will make its decision on a roadmap for lifting restrictions on 8 May. The Victorian Government’s review of the State of Emergency on 11 May remains.
  • The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 is meeting again today, where the Department of Health will give evidence. The VHA will update members with any key developments.
  • The Commonwealth Government have released the draft legislation for the COVIDSafe app. The legislation, available here, will be presented to Parliament next week. The legislation is required for the app to be operational.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,440 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 17 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 145 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 162,000 tests have been carried out in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,875 cases with 97 deaths.
    • Over 5.1 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Residential aged care

  • Services should respond to the consultation on the draft Aged Care Visitor Access Code as they see appropriate.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released an updated fact sheet for in-home care workers, available here.

 

Thursday 7 May

 

For all health services

Action required

  • The Doutta Galla Aged Care Home in Footscray has gone into lockdown after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. A carer from the Grant Lodge in Bacchus Marsh, which is part of Djerriwarrh Health Services, has also been diagnosed with COVID-19. This follows a cluster of COVID-19 cases identified at Hawthorn Grange last week.
  • The cluster at a Melbourne meatworks has 62 connected cases, including 13 new related cases since yesterday.
    • Services are asked to remain vigilant and maintain effective processes.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released a factsheet on dispensing prescriptions via telehealth, available here. Services should share with staff as required.
  • The consultation on the new Aged Care Visitor Access Code closed today.
    • It is envisaged the code will be finalised by Monday 11 May 2020. The draft code can be accessed here.

General

  • Minister for Health Greg Hunt has today announced 40 million new masks will be made available. This includes 35 million masks to hospitals, 1.5 million additional masks for aged care workers, and 3.5 million masks for primary health care workers, including 2 million for general practices. It will also include 220,000 for respiratory clinics, 660,000 for pharmacy, 500,000 for allied health workers and 120,000 for Indigenous health workers.
  • The Black Dog Institute has launched a new mental health support program for health workers, part of a $3 million mental health support program for frontline health workers.
  • Victoria’s industrial relations minister, Tim Pallas, yesterday announced the state will pay the $1,500 fortnightly payments to casuals in the public sector excluded from the commonwealth JobKeeper program.
    • Under the Victorian scheme, 3,000 workers will receive the $1,500 fortnightly payment until the end of September, provided they are happy to be redeployed to other public-sector roles where demand is high, such as healthcare.
  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has threatened to revoke the operating licence of Newmarch House, the Sydney aged-care facility suffering a fatal outbreak of COVID-19, unless it appoints an independent advisor. The facility is expected to follow the direction.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,454 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 14 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 153 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 176,500 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,893 cases with 97 deaths.
    • Over 5.2 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Department of Health is hosting a webinar tomorrow Friday 8 May, 4.00pm, on ‘Residential Aged Care COVID-19 Outbreak Preparedness and Management’. The webinar will be broadcast from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment here.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released a poster on flu vaccinations for residential aged care facilities, available here.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Government has advised home care providers that, to support vulnerable older people facing social isolation during COVID‑19, they may source monitoring technology up to the value of $1,000 for clients who would benefit, regardless of the amount of other Goods, Equipment and Assistive Technology the client has already accessed under the CHSP in 2019‑20.
  • The Commonwealth Government has issued clarification for providers on the $70.2 million in emergency CHSP funding available. CHSP service providers are reminded that reallocation of base funding should be fully utilised, through the relaxed flexibility provisions, before applying for this emergency funding.

 

Friday 8 May

 

For all health services

Action required

  • Services are asked to remain vigilant and maintain effective processes after more outbreaks were recorded this week.
    • The cluster at a Melbourne meatworks has 71 connected cases, including 8 new related cases since yesterday.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released a factsheet on dispensing prescriptions via telehealth, available here. Services should share with staff as required.
  • The Victorian Government has announced an additional $17 million to support disability care during the pandemic. The key announcements for members include:
    • $2.6 million to establish new Disability Liaison Officers in health services.
    • Expansion of the Department of Health and Human Services Intensive Support Team.
    • $2 million to help smaller not-for-profit services with infection control and business continuity, targeted at regional providers.
    • Hospital and community health services may benefit from areas of this announcement, and should explore access to this support. The VHA will keep members updated if more information is released. Read more here.

General

  • The National Cabinet has today agreed to a three-step plan and a national framework for the removal of some COVID-19 restrictions. The goal is for all states to be at the same level by July 2020, but that each state will be responsible for progress through the steps.
    • Under step one, things that will be allowed include:
      • Gatherings with up to 10 people, and five guests in your own home.
      • Recreational activities such as golf, lap swimming and boot camps
      • An easing of restrictions for funerals, outdoor gatherings and weddings.
    • Step two will enable larger size gatherings up to 20 people, including for venues such as cinemas and galleries, while step three is expected to see gatherings of up to 100 people. Details for the last two steps are still being finalised.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,467 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 13 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 158 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 193,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
    • Over 20,000 tests were conducted yesterday in Victoria.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,910 cases with 97 deaths.
    • Over 5.3 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Hospitals

  • Services should explore whether they can access the recently announced disability funding and support.
  • Services should prepare for increased testing of their workforce and ensure that effective prevention processes are in place.

Residential aged care

  • The deadline for Business Improvement Fund grants for residential aged care has been extended to 30 April 2021.
    • Providers can apply for grant assistance to improve business operations, or support sale of a facility to another provider, or closure where no other options are available. The Business Improvement Fund is designed to support small to medium sized providers.

Community health services

  • Services should ascertain whether they can access any of the recently announced disability measures.
  • Services should ascertain whether any staff are eligible for the extended Hotel for Heroes program.

 

Monday 11 May

For all health services

General

  • These new restrictions and a renewed State of Emergency will be in place until 11:59pm on Sunday 31 May. Further announcements may be made then.
    • Today’s announcement follows the meeting of the National Cabinet on Friday, where a national framework for the removal of some COVID-19 restrictions was agreed. The goal is for all states to be at the same level by July 2020, with each state responsible for progress through the three steps.
  • The Victorian Public Accounts and Estimates Committee will hold the first hearing in its inquiry into the Victorian Government’s response tomorrow, where the Premier, Minister for Health and some health peak organisations will give evidence. The VHA will follow proceedings and update members accordingly.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,494 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 7 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 161 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 7 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 5 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 245,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
    • Over 161,000 tests were conducted in Victoria’s testing blitz.
  • 165 Victorian healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,948 cases with 97 deaths.
    • 5.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Department of Health has agreed to increase the ongoing base funding of all Social and Community Services (SACS) supplement-eligible CHSP providers in 2021-22. The cost to cover the shortfall will be approximately $50 million per annum.
    • The SACS supplement is scheduled to cease on 30 June 2021. The SACS supplement helped cover the cost of essential home support care staff and its cessation will result in a shortfall of funding for some CHSP providers.
    • The department will decide how to allocate the funds over the coming months. Payments will be made in financial year 2021-22. Only CHSP providers who are currently eligible for the SACS supplement will be eligible for this funding.

 

 

Thursday 12 May

 

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has announced $20 million to support Victorian testing, surveillance and outbreak response. A further 50,000 tests will be conducted over the next week, and 150,000 tests by the end of May.
    • The key announcement is the creation of a new ‘outbreak unit’ within the Department of Health and Human Services’ public health team. The unit will include new rapid response outbreak squads, staffed by public health specialists and clinicians, to respond as soon as a cluster is identified. The squads will also make proactive visits to high risk facilities, businesses and industries, and work with local services on infection control and prevention, while also stepping in to quickly manage any high-risk cases.
    • Services should prepare to work with the ‘outbreak unit’ and rapid response outbreak squads as required, and continue to test extensively. The VHA will provide more information as it becomes available.

General

  • The Commonwealth Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, provided a budget update to the Commonwealth Parliament today. The update revealed that:
    • To the end of March 2020, the underlying cash deficit was $22.4 billion, $9.9 billion higher than forecast in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
    • If Victoria reintroduced its restrictions, it would cost the economy $1 billion a week
    • Treasury estimates as a result of easing restrictions in line with stages 1, 2 and 3, GDP will increase by $9.4 billion each month.
    • The budget has been moved to October 2020.
  • The Victorian Government today announced that schools will return to on-site learning from 26 May, with staggered returning cohorts, break times and pick-ups.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,509 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 17 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. 2 confirmed cases were recategorised and removed from this total.
    • 164 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 4 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 258,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
    • Over 161,000 tests were conducted in Victoria’s testing blitz.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,965 cases with 97 deaths.
    • Over 5.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Residential aged care

  • The deadline for Business Improvement Fund grants for residential aged care has been extended to 30 April 2021.
    • Providers can apply for grant assistance to improve business operations, or support sale of a facility to another provider, or closure where no other options are available. The Business Improvement Fund is designed to support small to medium sized providers.

 

Wednesday 13 May

 

For all health services

General

  • The privacy legislation for the COVIDSafe app passed the Commonwealth Chamber of Representatives yesterday with bi-partisan support following slight changes.
    • This means the app is another step closer to being properly activated and useful.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,514 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 7 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. 2 confirmed cases were recategorised and removed from this total.
    • 164 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 9 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 273,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
    • Over 161,000 tests were conducted in Victoria’s testing blitz.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,971 cases with 98 deaths.
    • Over 5.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Residential aged care

  • Services should abide by the new code of conduct.
  • A link to a recording of the webinar on outbreak management in residential facilities which occurred on Friday can be found here.
  • The Commonwealth Department of Health has reiterated if aged care services face challenges sourcing adequate PPE they should email agedcarecovidppe@health.gov.au.
    • When caring for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, health care workers are required to wear appropriate PPE.
    • All requests are being triaged by the Department of Health and actioned for distribution through State and Territory governments.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Department of Health has reiterated if aged care services face challenges sourcing adequate PPE they should email agedcarecovidppe@health.gov.au.
    • When caring for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, health care workers are required to wear appropriate PPE.
    • All requests are being triaged by the Department of Health and actioned for distribution through State and Territory governments.

Thursday 14 May

 

For all health services

General

  • Commonwealth Health Minister Greg Hunt has extended the COVID-19 human biosecurity emergency period to 17 September 2020. The human biosecurity emergency declaration gives the Health Minister broad powers to determine any emergency requirements or give any direction to any person where the Minister is satisfied the direction is necessary to prevent or control the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics released employment figures today which showed:
    • The unemployment rate has risen to 6 per cent in Victoria.
    • Over 594,000 people lost their job in Australia between March and April.
    • The underutilisation rate in the economy is 19.9 per cent, a record high.
  • Social distancing restrictions in the State have been eased. Victorians can now:
    • Meet with friends and family, with a maximum gathering of up to 10 outdoors and up to 5 visitors to a home.
    • Have weddings with up to 10 guests; 20 people will be able to attend funerals held indoors – this goes up to 30 if the service is outdoors.
    • Engage in outdoor recreational activities, including walking, fishing, and golf, but physical distancing requirements must be maintained.
    • These new restrictions and a renewed State of Emergency will be in place until 11:59pm on Sunday 31 May. Further announcements may be made then.
  • The Victorian Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, earlier this week, held the first hearing in its inquiry into the Victorian Government’s response to COVID-19 yesterday, where the Premier, Minister for Health and some health peak organisations gave evidence. The key news from the hearing was that the Minister for Health highlighted that she wants ‘lasting reforms’ from the pandemic, particularly around procurement, retaining strong telehealth usage and stronger relations with the Commonwealth on PHNs. The VHA has publicly welcomed the Minister’s stance on innovation and you can read our media release here.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,523 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 9 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. 90 cases have now been connected to the meatworks cluster, while there are 8 cases connected to a Fawkner cluster.
    • 164 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 9 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 6 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 289,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 6,990 cases with 98 deaths.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released an FAQ on aged care workforce measures, which services can access here.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released an FAQ on aged care workforce measures, which services can access here.

Friday 15 May

For all health services

Action required

  • Relevant services should implement the new ‘Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19′, which was agreed following consultation last week.
    • The code will be reviewed after three weeks of implementation. The code can be accessed here.
  • Services should review the updated guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in non-inpatient health care settings during the COVID-19 outbreak, released by the Commonwealth Government and available here.

General

  • The Victorian Government has released its latest financial statement covering the first three-quarters of the financial year, which shows that the combined effects of COVID-19 and bushfires have led to a deficit of $773 million – in December it had been predicted that there would be a surplus of $618 million by this point. Expenditure on health has been revised, with an additional $5 billion budgeted. Read the quarterly report here.
  • The Commonwealth Government has introduced the first-ever Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health in Australia. Dr Ruth Vine is the former chief psychiatrist in Victoria and previously worked as the director of mental health for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,543 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 21 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 154 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission – this marks the fourth day in a row without an increase in untraced community transmission. 10 cases have been removed due to contact tracing.
    • 9 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 7 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 309,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,010 cases with 98 deaths.
    • 5.7 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released an FAQ on aged care workforce measures, which services can access here.
  • Services should abide by the new code of conduct.

Home-care

  • Services should abide by the new code of conduct.

Community health services

  • Services should implement the recently released PPE guidelines for non-inpatient settings.

 

Monday 18 May

For all health services

General

  • The National Cabinet last Friday adopted a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan, available here, which will receive $48.1m in funding to support its aims. The Plan identifies modelling, outreach and connectivity as immediate areas of focus. The funding includes:
    • $7.3m for research into real-time activity and data, with a new modelling project.
    • $29.5m for outreach to vulnerable communities including the elderly, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, indigenous Australians and people with pre-existing mental health conditions.
    • $11.3m for communication and outreach, with $10.4m of that to be spent on a national campaign.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,567 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 6 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 161 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 9 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 5 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 345,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,060 cases with 99 deaths.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released updated guidelines for infection prevention and control in residential care facilities, available here.

 

Tuesday 19 May

For all health services

Action required

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison last Friday announced that National Cabinet had approved the reopening of elective surgery across Australia.
    • Resumption of elective surgery is the responsibility of states – there has not been an announcement on when or how Victoria will increase elective surgery provision.
    • Relevant services should prepare for an increase in elective surgery.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released an updated training module on infection control for health workers, available here. Services should ensure appropriate staff are aware of the resource.

General

  • The Victorian Government last week announced an additional $19.5 million to deliver reform recommendations from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System interim report, as well as to support mental healthcare provision during the pandemic. This funding includes:
    • $6.5 million for extra junior medical staff training rotations in psychiatry and 60 new graduate mental health nurse placements.
    • $4.9 million for 24 new ‘Hospital in the Home’ beds – this is part of the recommendation to deliver 170 new acute mental health beds in Victoria.
    • Expansion of the state-wide rollout of the Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal after Engagement (HOPE) program.
    • Further operational funding for Mental Health Reform Victoria (MHRV).
    • This investment comes on top of the recent $59.4 million COVID-19 mental health package.
    • The VHA will keep members updated as more information on this funding becomes available and advise how members can access these resources.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,573 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 7 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 165 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 11 people with COVID-19 are currently in hospital, with 5 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 358,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,070 cases with 100 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Services should prepare for an increase in elective surgery.

 

Wednesday 20 May

For all health services

Action required

  • Services are reminded, due to COVID-19, the Disability Worker Registration Board of Victoria has delayed the commencement of voluntary worker registration until 1 July 2021.
    • The Disability Worker Regulation Scheme will still commence on 1 July 2020. After that time, the Victorian Disability Worker Commission can receive complaints about disability workers in Victoria. The Scheme will apply to all disability workers in Victoria.
    • Other components of the new scheme, including complaints and notifications about the conduct of disability workers, and a new code of conduct, will commence 1 July 2020.
    • All services should continue to prepare for the implementation of the scheme.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released an updated training module on infection control for health workers, available here. Services should ensure appropriate staff are aware of the resource.

General

  • The Victorian Government has today announced the latest round of Healthy Equal Youth (HEY) grants to support eight organisations to maintain their programs.
    • The funding will support the mental health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer young people, and follows last week’s COVID-19 mental health announcement.
    • The funding recipients include a number of VHA members, while six of the eight organisations are in regional locations.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,580 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 8 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 166 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 10 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 5 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 367,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,070 cases with 100 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Services should ensure staff are aware of the updated training module on infection control.

Residential aged care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released updated guidelines for infection prevention and control in residential care facilities, available here.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Government has released an FAQ on aged care workforce measures, which services can access here.

Community health services

  • The Victorian Government has released a factsheet for home based aged care providers, available here.
  • Services should ensure staff aware of the updated training module on infection control.

Thursday 21 May

For all health services

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,581 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 4 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, but due to reclassifications only saw a net increase of 1. This is the lowest daily net rise since late April.
    • 168 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 10 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 5 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 378,500 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,080 cases with 100 deaths.

Home-care

  • The Victorian Government has released a factsheet for home-based aged care providers, available here.

Friday 22 May

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has announced dental restrictions will be eased to Stage 1 from Monday, which allows up to 50 per cent of normal surgical activity (including reportable and non-reportable). The tweet from the Minister for Health, can be accessed here.
    • The VHA will provide further information as it becomes available. Victoria is aiming to fully resume all elective surgery lists by the end of July 2020.
    • Resuming the elective surgery blitz paused in early 2020 will then be considered.
    • Relevant services should prepare for the increase in dental procedures.
  • Services registered as businesses are now able to use the COVID-19 Manufacturer Response Register to procure medical and protective products.
    • The Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has worked with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to enhance the COVID-19 Manufacturer Response Register so it is now an interactive, self-managed platform. For more information, click here.
  • Two healthcare workers from the Kyabram District Health service have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases were discovered as part of regular screening of residential aged care workers, but neither had worked while infectious. Victoria currently has four aged care homes being managed as active outbreak sites. It has also been reported that over 100 cases have now been connected to the meat works cluster.
    • Services are reminded to stay vigilant with their processes.

General

  • The Victorian Public Accounts and Estimates Committee held its final public hearing this week as part of its inquiry into Victoria’s COVID-19 response. The inquiry is accepting submissions, with a deadline of 31 July 2020. The VHA has monitored proceedings and is exploring developing a submission.
  • The first part of Victoria’s Building Works package, with $2.7 billion directed towards ready-to-start infrastructure projects, includes 33 public sector aged care projects – these services have been notified.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 18 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,593 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. This increase follows yesterday’s figure, which was the lowest daily net rise since late April.
    • 171 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 10 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 5 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 393,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,095 cases with 101 deaths.

Residential aged care

  • The media release about the Commonwealth Government’s new emergency leave provision for permanent residential aged care residents is available here. Further information on this initiative will be provided shortly.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Government has updated the guidance for home-based aged care providers, available here.

Community health services

  • The Commonwealth Government has updated the guidance for home-based aged care providers, available here.

Monday 25 May

For all health services

Action required

  • The Commonwealth Government also released guidance on PPE for disability care providers, available here, as well as an updated module on infection control training for health workers, available here. Services should ensure appropriate staff are aware of the resources.

General

  • The Victorian Parliament will return on 2 June 2020. Both houses sit from 2 to 4 June and 16 to 18 June. Parliament has not met since passing emergency COVID-19 legislation on 23 April 2020. The VHA will monitor proceedings and keep members updated.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 19 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19. There was an additional death, the first in weeks, over the weekend.
  • 1,605 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 2 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. There were, in total, a further 12 cases across the weekend.
    • 180 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 3 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 431,500 tests have been processed in Victoria. Victoria has the sixth highest testing per capita rate per 1000 people in the world.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,110 cases with 102 deaths.

 

Tuesday 26 May

For all health services

Action required

General

    • The Commonwealth Government yesterday announced $20 million for mental health research and suicide prevention. The funding includes:
      • $3 million for research into the impact of COVID-19 and the pandemic response.
      • $6.65 million shared between four projects researching pharmacogenomics.
      • $10.3 million for suicide prevention research.
    •  The Victorian Government has announced further easing of restrictions. This means that, from today, outdoor playgrounds, skateparks and outdoor communal gym equipment will reopen. Further restrictions will be eased on 31 May, when the State of Emergency is reviewed.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 19 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19. There was an additional death, the first in weeks, over the weekend.
  • 1,610 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 5 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 182 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 3 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 437,000 tests have been processed in Victoria. Victoria has the sixth highest testing per capita rate per 1000 people in the world.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,125 cases with 102 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Services should ensure staff are aware of the new disability resources, as well as the updated training module on infection control, and ensure allied health professionals are aware of the PPE video.

Residential aged care

  • Services should ensure that staff are aware of the PPE training video.

Community health services

  • Services should ensure staff are aware of the new disability resources, as well as the updated training module on infection control, and ensure allied health professionals and aged care staff are aware of the PPE videos.

 

Wednesday 27 May

For all health services

General

    • The Therapeutic Goods Administration was yesterday instructed by the Commonwealth Minister for Health to begin an investigation into whether counterfeit masks had been sold to private hospitals.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 19 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19. There was an additional death, the first in weeks, over the weekend.
  • 1,618 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 8 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 183 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 4 requiring ICU care.
  • Nearly 471,000 tests have been processed in Victoria. Victoria has conducted
  • 200,000 tests since 11 May 2020.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,141 cases with 103 deaths.

 

Thursday 28 May

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Government has updated the COVID-19 quick reference guidelines and the case and contact management guidelines for health services and general practitioners, available here. The infection prevention and control guidelines have also been updated.
    • People without symptoms can now be tested if they constitute special circumstances as directed by the department.
    • Services should ensure all the guidelines are properly implemented.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released two videos on wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in aged care and allied health settings, available here.
    • Services should ensure relevant staff are aware of the resources.

General

  • The Senate Select Committee inquiry on COVID-19 has been ongoing over recent weeks. The hearing on Tuesday focused on aged and health care and heard:
    • Complaints to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission doubled from March to April, with complaints focusing on visitation.
    • The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is working with states and territories to get information on suicide in real time – the first public information is expected to be ready at the end of July 2020.
  • A recent article has found that nearly three times as many fines were issued in Victoria than in Queensland and four times more than in New South Wales – the state with the highest number of cases and deaths.
  • The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been granted a three-month extension on the delivery of its final report due to the impacts of COVID-19.
    • The Royal Commission’s final report will now be delivered in early February 2021.
    • The extension will allow the Royal Commission to conduct the engagement curtailed by the pandemic, as well as explore relevant issues around social isolation and loneliness.
    • The VHA has publicly welcomed the extension.
  • The first human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine in the southern hemisphere have begun at the Alfred Hospital. The drug was developed by a US biotech company, Novavax.
  • The Commonwealth Government is investing $57.2 million to improve palliative care in aged care facilities.
    • It is expected the injection of funds will be matched by states and territories, with South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory governments having already signed up.
    • Read the full announcement.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 19 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,628 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 165 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission. This is a reduction of 18 from yesterday, with a link now established to those cases.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 3 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 480,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,150 cases with 103 deaths.

Hospitals

  • The Commonwealth Government has released updated guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak, available here.
  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines.

Residential aged care

  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has released a new fact sheet on the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19.
    • The fact sheet provides further explanation of the new Code, including how it complements the existing regulatory framework, and is available here.
  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines on infection control and prevention.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Government has created a fact sheet for CHSP providers on personal monitoring technology for senior Australians, available here.
  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines on infection control and prevention.
  • Services should ensure that staff are aware of the PPE training video.

Community health services

  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines.

 

Friday 29 May

For all health services

Action required

  • The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today announced that health directions would be changed on Monday to ensure those working from home continue to do so.
    • Services should adhere to the direction as required.
    • Employers will risk fines if they fail to adhere to this direction.
    • This suggests a modified State of Emergency will be in place after 31 May 2020.
  • The Victorian Government has updated the COVID-19 quick reference guidelines and the case and contact management guidelines for health services and general practitioners, available here. The infection prevention and control guidelines have also been updated.
    • People without symptoms can now be tested if they constitute special circumstances as directed by the department.
    • Services should ensure all the guidelines are properly implemented.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released two videos on wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in aged care and allied health settings, available here.
    • Services should ensure relevant staff are aware of the resources.

General

  • The National Health Reform Agreement 2020-25 was announced after the meeting of the National Cabinet.
    • An estimated $131.4 billion will fund a demand-driven public-hospital funding model. This includes $34.4 billion in funding to public hospitals from July 1 this year.
    • The agreement includes a funding guarantee to all states and territories to ensure no jurisdiction is left worse off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and guarantees the Commonwealth’s funding contribution for public hospitals over the next five years.
    • The agreement also includes funding for immunotherapies and CAR-T cell therapies.
    • The VHA will provide further information once the agreement is published.
  • National Cabinet will continue post-pandemic. The Prime Minister has announced the Council of Australian Governments will be abolished, with the National Cabinet meeting monthly (via teleconference) to focus on jobs and federation issues.
  • The Senate Select Committee inquiry on COVID-19 has been ongoing over recent weeks. The hearing on Tuesday focused on aged and health care and heard:
    • Complaints to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission doubled from March to April, with complaints focusing on visitation.
    • The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is working with states and territories to get information on suicide in real time – the first public information is expected to be ready at the end of July 2020.
  • A recent article has found that nearly three times as many fines were issued in Victoria than in Queensland and four times more than in New South Wales – the state with the highest number of cases and deaths.
  • The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been granted a three-month extension on the delivery of its final report due to the impacts of COVID-19.
    • The Royal Commission’s final report will now be delivered in early February 2021.
    • The extension will allow the Royal Commission to conduct the engagement curtailed by the pandemic, as well as explore relevant issues around social isolation and loneliness.
    • The VHA has publicly welcomed the extension.

COVID-19 by numbers

  • There have been 19 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,634 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
    • Victoria recorded 7 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
    • 165 infections may have been acquired through untraceable community transmission. This is a reduction of 18 from yesterday, with a link now established to those cases.
    • 8 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, with 3 requiring ICU care.
  • Over 490,000 tests have been processed in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,156 cases with 103 deaths.

Hospitals

  • The Commonwealth Government has released updated guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak, available here.
  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines.

Residential aged care

  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has released a new fact sheet on the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19.
    • The fact sheet provides further explanation of the new Code, including how it complements the existing regulatory framework, and is available here.
  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines on infection control and prevention.

Home-care

  • The Commonwealth Government has created a fact sheet for CHSP providers on personal monitoring technology for senior Australians, available here.
  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines on infection control and prevention.
  • Services should ensure that staff are aware of the PPE training video.

Community health services

  • Services should implement the updated state guidelines.

2 June

 

For all health services

Action required

  • Victoria’s State of Emergency has been extended to 21 June 2020.
    • Directions from the deputy chief health officer have been updated and should be implemented by services. The updated directions include:
      • Care facilities
      • Hospital visitors
      • Diagnosed persons and close contacts.
  • Victoria has also today eased some restrictions, with more information available here. Services should implement the new restrictions as required.
    From today:

    • Residents of care facilities, including aged care, can have up to two support visits each day. Residents can have a total of two visitors for up to a total of two hours.
    • There can be up to 20 people in a home or in a public place.
    • Restaurants, cafes and pubs can have up to 20 customers dine in.

General

  • The National Health Reform Agreement 2020-25 was announced after the meeting of the National Cabinet at the end of May.
    • An estimated $131.4 billion will fund a demand-driven public-hospital funding model. This includes $34.4 billion in funding to public hospitals from July 1 this year.
    • The agreement includes a funding guarantee to all states and territories to ensure no jurisdiction is left worse off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and guarantees the Commonwealth’s funding contribution for public hospitals over the next five years.
    • The Australian Government funding contribution for public hospital services in Victoria is estimated to grow to $32.4 billion over the next five years.
  • The National Cabinet will continue post-pandemic. The Prime Minister has announced the Council of Australian Governments will be abolished, with the National Cabinet meeting monthly (via teleconference) to focus on jobs and federation issues. A health sub-committee will be established.

COVID-19 by numbers (as at Monday 1 June)

  • There have been 19 deaths in Victoria due to COVID-19.
  • 1,653 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Victoria.
  • Over 515,000 tests have been conducted in Victoria.
  • In Australia, overall, there have been over 7,202 cases with 103 deaths.

Hospitals

  • Updated directions for hospital visitors have been released, available here, and should be implemented.
  • Updated directions for those diagnosed with COVID-19 have been released, available here, and should be implemented.

Residential aged care

  • Updated directions for care facilities have been released, available here, and should be implemented.
  • The wellbeing check service, provided by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), is expanding to support all home care and CHSP recipients who may need social and emotional support.
    • The service was originally introduced in April for older Australians who elected to defer home support services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • This independent OPAN service should be complementary and additional to any contact made to older Australians by their home care or CHSP provider.

Home-care

  • The Department of Health has reiterated that, with the exception of Social Support Group, no CHSP service types should be cancelled or reduced by providers on the grounds of being non-essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The wellbeing check service, provided by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), is expanding to support all home care and CHSP recipients who may need social and emotional support.
    • The service was originally introduced in April for older Australians that elected to defer home support services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • This independent OPAN service should be complementary and additional to any contact made to older Australians by their home care or CHSP provider.

Community health services

  • Updated directions for those that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been released, available here, and should be implemented.

 

Update from 11 June

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 3 June and 10 June:

  • Victorian cases significantly dropped. There were 21 cases identified in the past week (1,670 – 1,691 cases). This is a big reduction compared to the number of cases in previous weeks, with at least two days with no new cases.
  • The number of deaths in Victoria from COVID-19 remained at 19 – there has not been a death related to COVID-19 for over two weeks.
  • Over 51,000 tests were processed in the past week (526,500< – 577,800<). This is a reduction on the number of tests conducted in recent weeks, although only slightly smaller than the number tested in the previous week. People are still encouraged to get tested if they have symptoms.

Key developments

Post-pandemic – looking towards the future

  • The big story this week has been the drop in COVID-19 cases – this is extremely welcome as the State continues to open-up.
  • Victorians are directed to continue following social distancing restrictions despite the State recording no new COVID-19 infections on some days, as there is still risk of outbreaks occurring.
  • Commonwealth Health Minister Greg Hunt has said the Commonwealth Government will look to continue expanded access to telehealth after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
    • The comments come at an announcement for over $24 million in funding for headspace centres.
    • Mr Hunt said that the Commonwealth Government is ‘looking to keep telehealth on a permanent basis’.

Workforce support

  • The Victorian Government has announced greater access to additional health and wellbeing services to help doctors, nurses, midwives and healthcare students through the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Almost $850,000 in funding is being made available.
    • The Victorian Doctors Health Program (VDHP) will receive $500,000 to support more doctors and medical students to access the free, confidential advice and support.
    • The Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria will receive nearly $350,000 to expand telehealth services and cope with the anticipated increase in demand.

Aged care

  • The retention bonus for direct care workers in residential and home care, announced to support the continuity of the direct care workforce during COVID-19, will be available soon.
    • The retention bonus will be paid by employers (aged care providers and agencies who provide aged care staff) to their eligible staff. Employers will apply and be funded to make the payment through a grant round opening in June 2020. Workers need to be employed at the time of application to be eligible.
    • Eligibility information, retention bonus payment rates and further information can be found in this fact sheet.
  • The Commonwealth Government has released new resources to support residential aged care providers, including updated guidelines for outbreak management in residential aged care facilities and an updated factsheet on visitation.

You can track the Victorian government’s policy announcements via the interactive Victorian COVID-19 Policy Tracker.

 

 

Monday 22 June

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 10 and 17 June:

  • Victorian cases significantly increased. There were 71 cases identified in the past week (1,691 – 1,762 cases). While still a low number, this is a big increase compared to the number of cases in the previous week, with Victoria recording the same number of cases in one day as it did in the previous week (21).
  • The number of deaths in Victoria from COVID-19 remained at 19 – there has not been a death related to COVID-19 for over three weeks.
  • Over 31,000 tests were processed in the past week (577,800< – 609,000<). This is a reduction from previous weeks. People are still encouraged to get tested if they have symptoms.

Key developments

Extension of State of Emergency

  • Victoria’s State of Emergency will be extended until 11.59pm on 19 July 2020, which allows the Victorian Government to continue to enforce physical distancing and isolation requirements, as well as other directions from the Chief Health Officer.
  • In order to continue to limit the number of people moving around the state and to help protect those who must travel to work, people are being asked to continue to work from home if they can.

Targeted testing

  • Victoria will increase its targeted COVID-19 testing, with a focus on communities where cases may be more likely or where testing numbers are relatively low.
    • The targeted testing program will run until the end of August and focus on Local Government Areas (LGAs) with low testing rates, communities with high case numbers, high-risk workforces and vulnerable groups.
    • The program will be rolled out in four, three-week waves across different locations and LGAs, with the first starting in Mildura, Kyabram, Dandenong and Brimbank.
    • Other LGAs and areas to be targeted include inner-city Melbourne, Moreland City Council, City of Melton, Colac Otway Shire, City of Whittlesea, Surf Coast Shire, Hume City and Wyndham City.

New fact sheets and grants for aged care

  • The Department of Health has released further information to support CHSP service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. These fact sheets describe:
  • The previously announced retention bonus for direct care workers in residential and home care to support the continuity of the direct care workforce during COVID-19 will be available soon.
    • A grant round opened on Monday 15 June 2020 for Approved Providers and Aged Care Workforce Agencies to apply for eligible workers to receive the Aged Care Workforce Retention Payment. The grant round will remain open until 2pm Monday 20 July 2020. First payments will be made to providers/agencies in July 2020. All information regarding this grant opportunity can be found on the GrantConnect website using the GO ID of GO4068.

You can track the Victorian government’s policy announcements via the interactive Victorian COVID-19 Policy Tracker.

 

25 June

Restrictions return as COVID-19 hotspots rise in Victoria

Victoria has experienced several new outbreaks of COVID-19 over the past week prompting a tightening of restrictions and threatening a return to lockdown conditions. More than 83 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in Australia in the seven-day period prior to last Sunday were recorded in Victoria, while the state experienced double-digit case increases for the past eight days. The increase has prompted the Victorian Government to engage the Defence Force in logistical support, which is expected to include testing.

The increase in cases and outbreaks have been connected to a lack of social distancing, with infections being passed between families at gatherings or colleagues at work. These clusters have prompted the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to advise against travel to and from the Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin local government areas until control of community transmission has been confirmed. Almost one in five Victorians (18 per cent) live in the six hotspots.

Instead of easing restrictions from 22 June, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the number of home visitors had been reduced to a maximum of five, while outdoor gatherings are capped to maximum groups of ten. The State of Emergency has been extended until 19 July 2020. This has led to updated directions for visitors to hopsitals and care facilities, available here.

Services should follow the updated directions.

As the situation in Victoria has developed, a range of new and updated materials, advice and guidance have been released for health services at a state and Commonwealth level. This includes:

Aged care providers have also seen updated guidance as the response to the pandemic continues. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission advised that accreditation and reaccreditation visits will recommence in late July 2020, dependent on local circumstances, while unannounced visits are also resuming. Developed resources released this week to support providers include:

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 17 and 24 June:

  • Victorian cases significantly increased. Over 120 cases were identified in the past week (1,762 – 1,884 cases). While still a low number globally, this is a big increase compared to the number of cases in recent weeks, with Victoria’s active case numbers reaching a two-month high.
  • The number of deaths in Victoria from COVID-19 increased by one to 20 – the first death related to COVID-19 for over a month.
  • Nearly 90,000 tests were processed in the past week (609,000< – 696,263<). This is nearly three times the number conducted in the previous week (31,000) and signals the increased concern over the outbreaks. People are encouraged to get tested if they have symptoms.

 

Thursday 2 July

Victorian cases continue to rise

COVID-19 cases continued to increase in Victoria this past week, with the State recording the fourth and fifth highest one-day case increases since the start of the pandemic. While the number of active cases is at its highest level since April, the bigger concern is the high level of community transmission. Returning travellers still account for the majority of Victoria’s total cases, however a number of outbreaks have been connected to staff overseeing the hotel quarantine. In response, the Premier has unveiled a series of measures, including a suburban testing blitz, postcode lockdown and a judicial inquiry into the hotel quarantine process.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 24 June and 1 July:

  • Victorian cases significantly increased. Over 348 cases were identified in the past week (1,884 – 2,232 cases). While still a low number globally, this is a big increase compared to the number of cases in recent weeks, as one day (75) resulted in more cases than an entire week a fortnight ago. There has been a big increase in community transmission.
  • The number of deaths in Victoria has stayed at 20 – the previous week saw the first death related to COVID-19 for over a month.
  • Over 130,000 tests were processed in the past week (696,260< – 829,000<). This is an increase of over 40,000 tests compared to the previous week. Two weeks ago, only 31,000 were tested in a week; this escalation signals the increased concern over outbreaks. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Outbreak development and new restrictions

In response to the rise in cases, Victoria embarked on a suburban testing blitz, with a door-to-door testing regime in 10 identified suburbs.

  • The process included saliva testing; Victoria being the first place in Australia to use this for people who cannot use the nasal swab.
  • Since its introduction last Thursday, DHHS knocked on 54,000 doors. More than 93,000 tests, including for people without symptoms, were conducted in the testing blitz in just three days.
  • The priority suburbs were: Keilor Downs; Albanvale; Sunshine West; Maidstone; Hallam; Broadmeadows; Brunswick West; Fawkner; Reservoir; Pakenham

Stage 3 Restrictions will be introduced from today for 10 postcodes, covering 36 suburbs. People living in the areas listed below can only leave their homes to go to work or study, for caregiving, for food or supplies and for exercise.

  • The postcodes are: 3012; 3021; 3032; 3038; 3042; 3046; 3047; 3055; 3060; 3064
  • Victoria Police will be actively enforcing the suburban lockdowns.

The Victorian Government has connected a ‘significant’ number of outbreak cases to returning international quarantine cases.

  • A report found some cases are attributable via genomic sequencing to staff members involved in hotel quarantine breaching infection control protocols.
  • Premier Daniel Andrews announced a judicial inquiry into the hotel quarantine process.
  • The Premier also asked the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to divert all returning international flights away from Melbourne for the next two weeks.
  • Victoria has implemented mandatory testing for all returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
  • Those who refuse to comply with testing will be required to remain in quarantine for a further 10 days to ensure they pose no risk of introducing coronavirus to the Victorian community.

 

Additional workforce support

In response to the outbreaks, the Victorian Government has requested additional support staff from the Commonwealth Government. That support will include:

  • 100 team leaders to help with the coordination of the suburban testing blitz.
  • 200 clinical staff to help free up other clinical staff.
  • 500 Commonwealth public servants, principally those based in Melbourne, to help with the community engagement strategy.

Other states are also sending support to Victoria to support its outbreak response.

  • Western Australia has sent one of its most experienced public health physicians, Professor Tarun Weeramanthri. Professor Weeramanthri has been seconded for an initial four-week period to assist with the operational and strategic management of their public health response.

 

Updated resources and information

Updated and new resources were released this week to support providers across health and aged care:

 

Additional support for aged care

The CHSP Program Manual has been updated for the extension of the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2022.

The Commonwealth Department of Health has engaged Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) and Healthcare Australia (HCA) to provide surge workforce, commencing 1 July 2020, to ensure the continuity of aged care during COVID-19.

  • These arrangements complement the temporary surge workforce through Mable’s online platform, and the emergency response teams and remote locums through Aspen Medical already in place.
  • Staff engaged through RCSA and HCA will be invoiced directly to the providers, and may be reimbursed through the COVID-19 Aged Care Support Grant Program

 

 

9 July

 

Victoria breaks daily case record as restrictions reintroduced to Metropolitan Melbourne

Following further increases in COVID-19 cases, Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire have returned to Stage 3 ‘Stay at Home’ Restrictions.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 1 and 8 July:

  • Victorian cases significantly increased with over 700 cases identified (2,232 – 2,942 cases).
  • There was a big increase in unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations.
    • Over 456 cases had no known cause, indicating community transmission
    • 860 cases are currently active in Victoria
    • 41 cases are in hospital, including 7 in intensive care
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 22, with two new COVID-19 related deaths in the past week.
  • Over 170,000 tests were processed (829,000< – 1,000,800<). This is an increase of over 40,000 from the previous week (130,000). Victoria recorded at least one day where over 29,000 tests were conducted. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Updated restrictions

Effective now, residents in Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire should not leave home, unless it is for:

  • Shopping for food or essential items
  • Work or study
  • Exercise within your shire / area
  • Medical and care giving

This direction will be in place for 6 weeks until 11.59pm on 19 August 2020. The rest of regional Victoria is currently unaffected, however, there is an enforced border with New South Wales.

These restrictions follow a big increase in the number of cases, with Victoria breaking its daily case record and its total active case record. The increased case load has been due to increased community transmission. The first time Victoria was put in lockdown was largely due to infection in returning international travellers.

The increase in restrictions has led to updated directions for:

Services should follow the updated directions. Further updated directions in response to the restrictions change are also likely.

 

Changes to schooling

In terms of schooling, from Monday, Year 11 and 12 students, VCE students and Year 10 students for the VCE component of their learning, if they are doing VCE subjects, will return to normal face-to-face learning. For all other students, the school holidays will extend for a further week. Teachers will still be available to teach students whose parents have essential jobs. Services should ensure staff are aware of the schooling option if it is relevant to them.

 

Lockdown of public housing towers

This larger lockdown follows the lockdown of nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne over the weekend. This was due to the identification of a number of cases in the towers and its spread between the towers, with the potential for a major outbreak. This process was intended to last for 5 days, potentially extending to 14 days depending on testing results, with a whole-of-government response to test and support residents. This response included several VHA members. Following the latest lockdown changes, the strategy is to complete the testing and then, as soon as possible, move those nine towers to the same level of restrictions as the rest of Melbourne.

 

New resources for healthcare workers

As the situation in Victoria has developed, a range of new and updated materials, advice and guidance have been released for health services at a state and federal level. This includes:

Services should ensure that staff are aware of any changes. Resources are likely to be updated in response to the changed restrictions.

 

Impact on aged care policy

COVID-19 has also continued to have an impact on aged care policy. Following a request from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the Commonwealth Government agreed to extend its reporting period due to the impact of COVID-19. The Commission will now deliver its final report by 26 February, 2021.

 

Thursday 16 July

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer expects hospitalisations to increase

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, expects ‘a couple of hundred individuals at least’ will be hospitalised in Victoria due to COVID-19 over the next few weeks. He highlighted that usually 10-15 per cent of COVID-19 cases require hospitalisation and urged GPs to refer patients who may need more intensive treatment early.

Victoria continued to see big daily increases in COVID-19 cases, recording its largest daily case load to date. While the State awaits the impact of the reintroduced restrictions, a number of metropolitan hospital services have been impacted by cases amongst staff members.

In addition to ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions, State and Commonwealth Governments have updated their advice on face masks within health settings and in the community.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 8 and 15 July:

  • Victorian cases continued to significantly increase, with over 1,500 identified (2,942 – 4,448 cases).
    • The increases in unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations escalated.
    • Over 790 cases have been acquired in Australia with no known cause – an increase of over 300 from last week (456). Over 800 cases are still being investigated.
    • There are 1931 active cases in Victoria, an increase of over 1000 on last week (860).
    • There are 105 cases in hospital, including 27 in intensive care. This is a doubling of hospital cases in a week, and an increase of over 20 in ICU.
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 27, with a further five new COVID-19 related deaths in the past week.
  • Almost 200,000 tests were processed (1,000,800< – 1,197,000<). This is an increase of over 27,000 from the previous week (170,000). Victoria recorded at least one day where over 37,000 tests were conducted. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

New advice on masks within health and community settings

In response to the rise in cases, the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments have updated their advice on face masks within health settings and in the community.

  • Due to an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, the PPE Taskforce has released new PPE guidance to health services in these regions. It is recommended that:
    • Hospital staff wear a level 1 disposable surgical mask in public-facing areas – particularly where adequate physical distancing is not possible.
    • Patients wear face masks in these same environments.
    • The Chief Health Officer has recommended that adults living in areas under Stage 3 restrictions wear a face mask when outside if it is difficult to keep 1.5 metres apart from other people.
      • More information is available here.

Aged care staff who work in residential facilities or provide home care support across Victoria’s lock down zones will also be required to wear surgical masks following recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

  • Further information can be found here.

 

Changes to elective surgery in Victoria

The Government has introduced a number of changes to elective surgery in Victoria to prepare the state’s health system to protect Victorians from coronavirus.

  • All Category 3 elective surgery will be paused in Metro Melbourne
  • Elective surgery will be reduced to no more than 50 per cent of usual activity across all public hospitals and 75 per cent in private hospitals.
  • These changes do not impact elective surgery in regional Victoria.
    • Full details here.

The Victorian Government has introduced a screening process for elective surgery patients.

  • Public and private patients will be tested for COVID-19 around a week before their scheduled surgery and asked to self-isolate until their surgery to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
  • Emergency surgery will not be impacted by these changes.

 

Updated resources and information

Updated and new resources were released this week to support providers across health and aged care, including:

 

Additional measures for aged care

More than 80 people have contracted COVID-19 in aged care facilities in Victoria with 24 different outbreaks.

  • The majority of cases are among staff with private-sector homes affected the most.
  • A special ward has been set up at Royal Melbourne Hospital in preparation for an anticipated influx of elderly patients from aged care homes.
  • Services and staff are reminded to follow established processes and ensure a process is in place in case of an outbreak.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has announced that, in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Victoria, the Commission is undertaking the following activities:

  • conducting a site visit to any service identified as high risk where concerns are raised (including in the Melbourne metropolitan area)
  • standing up a regulatory program to conduct an assessment contact by telephone with all residential aged care service providers operating in Victoria – this is not an assessment of performance against the Standards
  • planning to engage with all services (residential and home services) operating along the NSW/VIC and SA/VIC borders regarding management of risk and workforce supply
  • continuing to manage all complaints received about Victorian aged care services
  • continuing to closely monitor all services currently subject to compliance action including those services under sanctions.

 

 

Thursday 23 July

 

Victoria breaks daily case record as restrictions reintroduced to Metropolitan Melbourne

Victoria has continued to record high numbers of cases throughout the past week, including a record 484 cases yesterday. The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also revealed that, of the 3,810 cases recorded between 7-21 July, nearly 90 per cent, or 3,409 cases, did not isolate between when they first felt sick and when they went to get a test. More than half who got a test did not isolate between when they had their test taken and when they got the results.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 15 and 22 July:

  • Victorian cases continued to significantly increase, with over 2,200 cases identified (4,448 – 6,739 cases).
  • Unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations increased:
    • Over 1,060 cases have been acquired in Australia with no known cause – an increase of over 300 from last week (790). Over 1,500 cases are still being investigated, nearly double the amount that were being investigated last week.
    • There are 3,408 active cases in Victoria, an increase of nearly 1,500 on last week (1,931), similar to the previous week.
    • There are 205 cases in hospital, including 40 in intensive care. This is an increase of over 100 hospital cases in a week, and an increase of 13 in ICU.
    • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 44, with a further 17 new COVID-19 related deaths in the past week. This represents a big increase in the number of deaths in comparison to previous figures.
  • Over 187,000 tests were processed (1,197,000< – 1,385,964<). This represents a slight decrease compared to the tests conducted in the previous week (197,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Updated restrictions

Effective now, extra restrictions apply to metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. When leaving home for one of the four reasons, people 12 years and older must wear a face covering, unless an exemption applies. Further information on these exemptions is available here.

These areas continue to have Stage 3 Restrictions in place. While these restrictions do not apply to regional Victoria, people are still encouraged to wear a face covering when leaving home and if you are not able to keep 1.5 metres from others.

Changes have also been made to the directions for:

These changes primarily relate to the number and type of people who can visit and the number and length of visits per day. If you are unwell or waiting on a COVID-19 test result you must not visit any of these facilities.

The State of Emergency has also been extended to 16 August 2020.

Further changes to COVID-19 response

The Victorian Government announced further changes this week to support the COVID-19 response:

  • New or expanded testing sites, many operated by VHA members, will be established across regional Victoria to provide local residents with better access to testing. The sites are focusing on areas with higher case rates and recent cases, based on the public health advice.
  • The first dedicated regional public health team has been established at Barwon Health to provide case management and contact tracing for regional cases and assist metro Melbourne teams where possible. Preparations are also underway to set up further teams at Ballarat, Bendigo and Latrobe health services, Goulburn Valley Health and more regional locations as required, to respond to increasing cases and emerging trends.
  • All Category 3 elective surgery in Metropolitan Melbourne has been paused, to ensure spare beds and workforce capacity if the state was to experience an increase in cases.
  • Elective surgery will also be reduced to no more than 50 per cent of usual activity across all public hospitals and 75 per cent in private hospitals. This means private hospitals can continue to take on public category one and urgent category two surgery.
  • There are no changes to elective surgery in regional Victoria.

 

New resources for healthcare workers

As the situation in Victoria has developed, a range of new and updated materials, advice and guidance have been released for health services at a state and federal level. This includes:

  • Updated resources on maternity, neo-natal and post-natal care during COVID-19

Services should ensure that staff are aware of any changes. Resources are likely to be updated in response to the changed restrictions.

 

Impact on aged care policy

Both state and federal governments have announced a range of additional measures to support aged care providers.

  • Federal funding will be made available to residential and home care providers to:
  • Ensure aged care employers can cover any additional entitlements to enable employees to work at a single site
  • Engage and train additional staff where existing employees are unable to work due to self-isolation requirements and/or where a more intensive workforce mix is required
  • Support aged care workers unable to work due to symptoms, self‑isolation or travel restrictions, regardless of whether they would usually receive paid leave
  • Provide alternative accommodation so workers who live or work in hotspots can continue to work.
  • The Victorian Government will commence additional intensive training in infection control for aged care workers in partnership with Monash University.
  • Five new COVID-19 testing teams will be deployed to screen staff and residents in residential services located across metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
  • The Commonwealth Government initiative is designed to help health authorities identify where community transmission is occurring, before there are COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Testing teams began contacting providers from 16 July; the testing will be carried out on a voluntary basis and providers will be contacted ahead of the arrival of a mobile testing team.
  • Minister Hunt announced that all aged care workers across Victoria will now be required to wear face masks.
  • This applies to both residential and home care workers.
  • The Commonwealth Government will release a further one million masks from the National Medical Stockpile to support this requirement, in addition to the four million previously released for aged care workers in the areas of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
  • Aged care providers in Victoria can contact AgedCareCOVIDPPE@health.gov.au to request PPE for in home and residential aged care workers delivering close personal care and clinical care.

 

30 July

Sector facing significant workforce pressures

Victoria experienced another significant surge in COVID-19 cases this week, resulting in more active cases among healthcare workers, increased hospitalisations, and, tragically, more COVID-19 related deaths.

With 502 healthcare workers among the active cases in the state—an increase of 315 from the past week—the sector is facing significant workforce pressures; calling on all Victorians to play their role in stopping the spread. The state is also responding to multiple outbreaks across the aged care sector, with nurses from Victorian hospitals being redeployed to support their colleagues in aged care.

After recording the largest daily case increase of the pandemic, with 552 cases on Monday, there has been a slight reduction in case numbers over the past couple of days. This is hopefully a signal of the impact of reintroduced restrictions. State and Commonwealth governments have also announced a range of new initiatives to support the sector and encourage all Victorians to play their role.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 22 and 29 July:

  • More than 2,500 cases were identified in Victoria (6,739 – 9,304 cases).
    Unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations increased:

    • Over 1,418 Victorian cases were acquired in Australia with no known cause – an increase of over 300 from last week (1,060). Over 3,350 cases are still being investigated, nearly double the amount from last week.
    • There are 4,849 active cases in Victoria, an increase of nearly 1,450 on last week (3,408), similar to the previous week.
    • There are 307 cases in hospital, including 41 in intensive care. This is an increase of over 100 hospital cases in a week, but only an increase of 1 in ICU; it is expected ICU cases will increase in coming weeks.
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 92, with a further 48 COVID-19 related deaths in the past week. This is more than double the number of deaths in the prior week (17), which itself was a marked increase on prior records.
  • Over 168,000 tests were processed (1,385,000< – 1,553,000<). This represents a slight decrease compared to tests conducted in the previous week (187,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Fighting the virus in aged care

There has been a lot of focus on Victoria’s aged care facilities; 7 per cent of all COVID-19 cases reported in Victoria since July are people in residential aged care. There are now 804 active cases associated with aged care outbreaks in 80 facilities, up 421 from last week. The majority of these cases are in private residential aged care facilities in metropolitan Melbourne.

The Victorian Government announced on Tuesday that, due to the likelihood of increased transfers from aged care facilities, all non-urgent Category 2 elective surgery across public and private hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne will be paused.

  • All Category 3 elective surgery had already been paused in metropolitan Melbourne.
  • There will be no changes to elective surgery in regional Victoria.

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments established the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre to co-ordinate and expand resources for aged care services.

  • The Centre brings together Commonwealth and State government agencies at the State Control Centre in Melbourne in a co-ordinated effort to manage the impact of COVID-19 across facilities.

On Monday, the Fair Work Commission ruled that employees of residential aged care facilities will receive two weeks paid pandemic leave if required to self-isolate.

  • Under the new entitlement, workers who are required by their employer or a government medical authority to self-isolate because of COVID-19 symptoms, or contact with a person suspected of having COVID-19, will receive two weeks of paid leave each time they have to self-isolate. The new entitlement will initially operate for a period of three months.
  • The Commonwealth Government, afterwards, announced compensation to cover pandemic leave in hotspots such as metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire. This does not extend across the rest of Victoria.

Online training for infection control and PPE

Services should ensure compliance with the latest directions relating to visitors.

  • All visitors attending a residential aged care facility must wear a face covering.

 

Workforce capacity

Steps have been taken at a state and Commonwealth level to increase workforce capacity for the public health response.

  • The Victorian Government is using more than 1,400 ADF members to support state-led contact tracing and case monitoring operations.
  • The Commonwealth Government will send Australian Medical Assistant Teams (AUSMAT) to Victoria to assist with the pandemic response.
  • Victoria has over 800 skilled healthcare professionals from the Working for Victoria ‘Health Portal’ contracted to work in health services and other health care settings across the state, with hundreds more ready to be deployed.
  • State and ADF nurses have been deployed into certain aged care facilities to support care delivery as they deal with outbreaks.
    • Nurses from Victorian public hospitals and ADF medics have already filled in 400 shifts in aged care since Monday.

Increased distribution of masks

The Victorian Government will distribute 2.1 million reusable face masks to vulnerable Victorians as well as the workforces which support them.

  • The Government is working with local councils, hospitals and community health services, community pharmacies, participating GPs, Aboriginal community groups and other service providers to distribute the free face masks.

The Commonwealth Government will provide further PPE for aged care staff and residents in Victoria.

  • 500,000 reusable face shields will be supplied to all residential aged care services across Victoria for use by staff.
  • A further 5 million face masks will be released from the National Medical Stockpile for Victorian aged care providers.
  • This will immediately assist around 770 residential aged care facilities.
  • A temporary change has been made to funding arrangements for PPE under NDIS.

Clients can now recover the costs to purchase PPE items using NDIS funds, if they:

  • receive an average of at least one hour a day of face-to-face daily living supports, and;
  • live in Victoria or New South Wales.

Updated resources and information

Updated and new resources were released this week to support providers across health and aged care, including:

 

Thursday 6 August

Victoria breaks daily case record as curfew introduced to Metropolitan Melbourne

Victoria continued to experience high numbers of cases throughout the past week, including 725 new cases yesterday alone. The state continues to account for the vast majority of cases and deaths in Australia, with a marked increase in deaths over the past week. In response, the Premier has announced a State of Disaster and increased restrictions across the state, with metropolitan Melbourne now subject to Stage 4 restrictions not experienced during the first wave of the pandemic.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 29 July and 5 August:

  • More than 3,700 cases were identified in Victoria (9,304 – 13,035 total cases), 1,200+ more than the previous week.
  • Unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations increased:
    • Over 2,281 Victorian cases were acquired in Australia with no known cause, indicating possible community transmission – representing a 50 per cent increase on the previous week (1,418 cases). Over 3,625 cases are still being investigated.
    • There are 7,227 active cases in Victoria, an increase of over 2,350 on last week (4,849).
    • There are 538 cases in hospital, including 42 in intensive care. This is an increase of over 231 hospital cases in a week, more than doubling the previous week’s increase, but only an increase of 1 in ICU; it is anticipated ICU cases will increase in coming weeks.
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 162, with a further 70 COVID-19 related deaths in the past week. This is 22 more deaths than in the prior week (48), which itself was a marked increase on prior records.
  • Over 192,000 tests were processed (1,553,000< – 1,745,900<). This represents an increase compared to tests conducted in the previous week (168,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Updated restrictions

On Sunday, the Victorian Government announced that Victoria had entered a State of Disaster, increasing the powers available to the state. Melbourne was immediately moved to Stage 4 restrictions, with stronger rules to limit the movement of people. These restrictions include a curfew between 8pm – 5am, unless required for work, medical care and caregiving, as well as a 5km limit on travel from your place of residence.

The Victorian Government has also introduced workplace restrictions. Effective now, employers that require their staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees – this is the employer’s responsibility. Health services should ensure that the regulations are correctly followed – further information is available here.

Health workers who carry employer-issued photographic identification, which clearly identifies the employer, do not need a permit.

People working in permitted industries will maintain access to kinder and childcare for their kids under Stage 4 restrictions, regardless of whether they are working onsite or from home. More details are available on the worker permit page.

The Victorian Government has also escalated measures in regional Victoria. Effective now, regional Victoria is under Stage 3 restrictions, and people are required to wear face-masks, as had previously been the case in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

The Victorian Government has also announced that all Category 3 and non-urgent Category 2 elective surgery in regional Victoria will be paused. This follows a similar announcement for metropolitan Melbourne last week, and is designed to increase healthcare capacity. Where possible, affected surgeries already booked should still take place, however that is at the hospital’s discretion. Category 1 and urgent Category 2 procedures can continue to take place as required.

These changes have prompted changes to Directions from the Chief Health Officer, including:

Services should ensure they are compliant with all the Directions.

Further developments

As the pandemic continues, a range of new support, resources and reports were released in the past week.

Aged care changes

A total of 108 deaths in Victoria have been connected to aged care, with 1,435 active cases relating to aged care facilities. As the situation in Victoria continues to develop, attempts have been made to support and improve the aged care response:

  • The Victorian Government released updated advice and COVID-19 screening tools for residential aged care providers, available here. The updated resources include:
  • In addition to the requirement for all Victorian aged care workers to wear face masks, aged care workers in Victorian residential aged care facilities are now advised to wear face shields as a precautionary measure.
    • Single use face shields are being distributed from the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) to all residential aged care facilities in Victoria. Facilities will be directly contacted by delivery providers to receive the allocated face shields over the coming days, with priority distribution to Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
    • A training guide on face shield use has been released.
  • The Commissioner for Senior Victorians, Gerard Mansour, has been appointed as an advisor to the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.
    • He has been recruited primarily to work with the families of inhabitants in residential aged care facilities.
  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson has written to aged care providers regarding their obligations to implement all necessary steps to mitigate the risks of COVID-19.
    • The Commission will shortly be undertaking unannounced checks of aged care services to observe infection control practices and ensure that everyone is adhering to safe PPE protocols and infection control arrangements.
    • Read the Commissioner’s letter here.

Thursday 13 August

Governments invest $97.7 million in Victoria’s mental health

While Victoria continues to record large numbers of COVID-19 cases each day, the total for the past week was significantly less than the previous week, suggesting a downward trend for the surge. This is hopefully a sign that restrictions are beginning to have an impact, however community transmission remains high.

Sadly, the rate of deaths is increasing, with another record week, including three consecutive days of record high daily deaths. This culminated in a record 21 deaths reported on Wednesday. Figures show that Australia, as a whole, took 80 days to reach 100 COVID-related deaths from the first death on 1 March 2020; Victoria recorded 105 deaths in the past 7 days alone.

In response to the pandemic, a range of new advice and guidelines have been released. Both the state and Commonwealth governments have also announced support to help deal with the mental health effects of the continuing lockdown in Victoria, including more than $90 million in funding.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 5 and 12 August:

  • More than 2,600 cases were identified in Victoria (13,035 – 15,646 total cases), 1,100 fewer than the previous week.
  • Unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations increased, but not as much as recent weeks:
    • Over 2,961 Victorian cases have been acquired in Australia with no known cause, indicating possible community transmission – an increase of 650 cases on last week. This compares favourably to the 50 per cent increase the week prior.
    • Over 2,150 cases are still being investigated – a decrease of over 1,500 cases compared to the previous week.
    • There are 7,877 active cases in Victoria – an increase of 650 from last week (7,227). A much smaller increase than the previous week when the number increased by more than 2,350.
    • There are 662 cases in hospital, including 43 in intensive care – an increase of 124 hospital cases in a week, but only 1 in ICU; ICU cases have stabilised.
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 267, with a further 105 COVID-19 related deaths. This is 35 more deaths than the prior week (70).
  • Nearly 129,000 tests were processed (1,745,900< – 1,874,615<) – a significant decrease compared to the previous week (192,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Aged care

  • Aged care continues to account for a significant proportion of cases, with the majority of deaths connected to aged care facilities. There are now 1932 active cases associated with aged care outbreaks in Victoria, an increase of over 1000 compared to two weeks ago. The majority of these cases are in private residential aged care facilities in metropolitan Melbourne.
  • The Commonwealth Government launched free face-to-face infection control training, which is now available for people working in residential aged care facilities in Victoria.
    • This free training is being delivered by Monash University, in partnership with the Victorian Government.
    • Bookings are welcomed from all residential aged care facilities across Victoria without any current cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents. Please fill in the booking request form or contact PPE.Project@monash.edu for more information.
  • The Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant Opportunity has been launched.
    • Designed to minimise the risk of infection to aged care workers, residents and other consumers of aged care services, the grant documentation is available here.
    • The Grant is open to approved Residential Aged Care providers, approved National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFACP) providers and approved Home Care providers, initially limited to Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

 

Mental health

  • A range of different announcements were made this week to support the provision of mental health care in Victoria.
  • The Victorian Government announced $59.7 million in new funding, which will deliver:
    • Extended opening hours in mental health community clinics
    • More mental health staff embedded within Ambulance Victoria’s RefCom service
    • Community mental health services and all 15 Melbourne-based headspace centres delivering more proactive outreach throughout the pandemic
    • $250,000 to the Nursing and Midwifery Health program
    • The roll out of the HOPE post-suicide prevention program to seven new sites, completing the state-wide roll-out
    • Fast-tracked planning for 144 new beds at Geelong, Epping, Sunshine and Melbourne.
  • The Victorian Government also announced details of a $26 million program to address the mental health needs of sole traders and small and medium business owners and their workers. Part of this funding will support the extension of the Partners in Wellbeing telephone hotline – a free mental health support service delivered by EACH, Neami National and the Australian Community Support Organisation.
  • The Commonwealth Government announced an additional $12 million for digital and telephone counselling services in Victoria. This funding includes $5 million for headspace to increase outreach services to young people in the community who are in severe distress and $2.5 million each to Beyond Blue and Lifeline to expand capacity.

 

Guidance and resources to stop virus spread

There are 1,079 active cases of healthcare workers with COVID-19. As outbreaks have continued to occur in the state, the Victorian Government has released a range of new advice, guidelines and resources to support care delivery and mitigate potential outbreaks in care settings.

Updated and new resources include:

The Commonwealth Government has also released resources and advice to support service delivery during COVID-19, including:

 

Thursday 20 August 2020

‘Unlikely to be the flu’: Victorians encouraged to get tested

For a second week, Victoria’s rate of new cases declined, leading to a slight drop in active COVID-19 cases. However, the state recorded its second highest weekly number of deaths, and continues to experience low testing and the continued presence of ‘mystery’ cases that suggest community transmission. In response, the state has extended the State of Emergency and is encouraging people to get tested, noting that if people are unwell it is unlikely to be the flu, with flu cases down 75 per cent on last year.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 12 and 19 August:

  • 1,800 cases were identified in Victoria (15,646 – 17,446 total cases), 800 less than the previous week, and nearly 2,000 less than a fortnight ago.
  • Unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations increased, but not as much as recent weeks:
    • Over 3,751 Victorian cases have been acquired in Australia with no known cause, indicating possible community transmission – representing an increase of 790 cases on last week. This compares favourably to a previous 50 per cent increase in these cases that occurred two weeks ago. Over 1,167 cases are still being investigated – this is a decrease of almost 1,000 cases compared to the previous week.
    • There are 7,155 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 722 on last week (7,877). This shows the number of cases has been dropping, and marks the first decrease in active cases since increasing in July 2020.
    • There are 675 cases in hospital, including 45 in intensive care – an increase of 13 hospital cases in a week, but only an increase of 2 in ICU. The increase in hospitalisations is down dramatically compared to the increase last week (124).
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 363, with a further 96 COVID-19 related deaths this past week. This is less deaths than during the prior week (106), but is still the second highest amount of deaths in a week for the state and Australia.
  • Over 134,000 tests were processed (1,874,615< – 2,008,630<). This represents a second week of decreased tests compared to the number of tests conducted earlier in the pandemic. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Changes to pandemic response

While Victoria continues to record the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in Australia, the decreasing case totals has prompted an adaptation in how the state is targeting the virus.
The Victorian Government has called on the population to continue to present for testing, following a second week with a low testing total. The seven days from 11 to 17 August saw 154,432 tests processed, a drop of almost 30,000 or around 17 per cent from the previous seven-day period. Large scale testing sites have seen between 15 and 40 per cent drops in demand in recent weeks, even though testing capacity has increased. To help encourage people to get tested, the COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment has been increased to $450 across the state. Regional Victorians, in particular, have been urged to get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms due to concern over case trends in regional areas such as Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. Since January 2020, 360,000 tests have been processed in regional Victoria with almost 90 testing sites now open.

Ongoing cases have also prompted the Victorian Government to extend the State of Emergency until 11.59pm 13 September 2020. This extension has led to the Directions from the Chief Health Officer being updated, including the Directions for hospital visitors. The Directions are available here – services should ensure they are compliant for all Directions.

Engaging with multicultural communities

The Victorian Government has announced funding for multicultural communities to support the pandemic response. An additional $14.3 million will be used to reach out to more culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Victorians. The funding includes $6.9 million for expanded health messaging and support for multicultural organisations that work on the ground to deliver emergency relief, as well as $5.5 million to continue and expand the distribution of vital health advice translated into 55 different languages. A CALD Communities Taskforce will be established.

Additional mental health support

Mental health has continued to be a major focus for a second week. The Commonwealth Government announced an additional $31.9 million in mental health support for Victoria. $26.9 million of the new funding will establish 15 dedicated mental health clinics across Victoria, with nine clinics in Greater Melbourne and six in regional Victoria. The clinics will be located at existing GP clinics, headspace centres or other community sites – a list of these locations will be announced within the coming weeks. The clinics will support GPs by providing access to multidisciplinary teams of mental health workers, including psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and alcohol and drug workers. The clinics will provide on-site mental health support, but may also arrange referrals to more intensive mental health care or social supports if needed.

Rollout of electronic prescriptions

The rollout of electronic prescriptions across Greater Melbourne will be expanded beyond the current communities of interest. This follows successful testing since May 2020, with electronic prescribing eventually being rolled out across Australia for GPs and community pharmacies. Further information is available here.

Additional support and guidance

As the pandemic continues, a range of new and updated support and resources for services were released in the past week. These include:

Aged care changes

Aged care continues to dominate COVID-19 focus, with 2,050 active cases relating to aged care facilities, and the majority of COVID-19 deaths connected to aged care facilities.

Further resources have been released to support aged care providers. The updated resources include:

Nurses or personal care workers in aged care who may be experiencing sustained periods of exhaustion, anxiety or anger, or feeling overwhelmed and finding it difficult to process information or make sense of things, can contact Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) to share these feelings with a trusted professional and seek support and guidance with how to best manage this.

  • NMHPV is a free, confidential and independent support service for nurses, midwives, nursing/midwifery students and personal care workers in need of support with sensitive health issues related to mental health impairment or substance abuse and family violence.
  • NMHPV is available Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm via 03 9415 7551 or admin@nmhp.org.au

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre also released an update on its activity, which includes:

  • Infection control
    • Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) have completed 113 visits to 62 facilities. There are 25 personnel from across the country assessing existing procedures and boosting infection prevention and control measures.
    • Western Health have provided assistance in prevention measures at 20 aged care facilities.
    • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has completed 59 unannounced on-the-spot checks of residential aged care homes in Victoria since 3 August to assess PPE usage and infection control practices
  • Workforce
    • A Residential Aged Care Safety Officer program of 30 personnel from the allied health services has been established. They are being deployed to support the orientation and safety of residential workers in the COVID-19 environment.
    • The Response Centre has partnered with Qantas and other aviation industry members to develop an innovative Residential Aged Care Assistant role to support non-intimate care in aged care facilities across Victoria.
      • An initial pilot of 10 attendants begin their training this week. Recruitment and training are being developed and supported by Leading Aged Care Services (LASA), ALTURA Learning, and The DASH Group. Following a review of this pilot program, up to 150 attendants will be employed under the scheme.
  • Innovation
    • The Response Centre’s efforts have been advanced by the development of a number of innovative tools to better streamline and coordinate its operations. The Response Centre is partnering with Victorian private and public hospitals through a hub network to support aged care facilities to ensure continuity of care to aged care residents.
    • A web-based Incident Management System has been introduced, allowing case managers, providers, public health units and response teams to communicate openly with the Response Centre.

Thursday 27 August

Victorian Government moves to extend State of Emergency

Victoria has continued to experience a decline in COVID-19 cases, with a number of daily case totals below 200 across the past week. Monday saw a 7-week low with just 116 cases.

Sadly, the decrease in the rate of deaths continues to be slow. Victoria recorded its second highest amount of deaths last week, signalling a delayed impact of high case numbers. A positive sign that the rate of deaths will decrease is that hospitalisations have decreased for the first time in weeks, with a substantial reduction in the number of people in ICU.

This positive trend, however, does not mitigate the need for ongoing measures to maintain the COVID-19 response. In the past week, the Victorian Government has announced it will introduce legislation to increase the maximum length of the State of Emergency declaration; a joint state and Commonwealth Disability Response Centre for Victoria is being introduced; and further Commonwealth funding to support the aged care response has been announced.

COVID-19 by numbers

NOTE: There was a change in data reporting from the Victorian Government this week, which made some comparisons harder.

Between 19 and 26 August:

  • 1,162 cases were identified in Victoria (17,446 – 18,608 total cases), 638 less than the previous week (1,800).
  • Unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations increased, but not as much as recent weeks:
    • There have been over 4,116 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing an increase of 365 cases on last week (3,751). This is a drop of 53 per cent compared to last week’s increase (790).
    • There are 3,488 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 3,667 on last week (7,155). This is a significant drop in cases compared to last week’s drop (722). This huge decrease in active cases began last week, coinciding with a period of 2-3 weeks since the current peak of the second wave.
    • There are 578 cases in hospital, including 39 in intensive care – a decrease of 97 hospital cases in a week (675), and a decrease of 6 in ICU (45). The number of hospitalisations is down compared to the increase last week (124).
    • The total cases in Victoria includes 2,799 healthcare workers with 434 active cases
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 462, with a further 99 COVID-19 related deaths this past week (363). This is slightly more deaths than during the prior week (96), making it the second highest amount of deaths in a week for the state and Australia.
  • Over 124,000 tests were processed (2,008,630< – 2,132,679<). This represents a third week of decreased tests compared to the number of tests conducted earlier in the pandemic. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Key developments

Victorian Government – new legislation and information

The Victorian Government announced that legislation changes will be introduced into the Victorian Parliament to extend the length of time a State of Emergency can be maintained.

  • Since being introduced in March 2020, the State of Emergency has been extended six times, but under current legislation it can only remain in place for a total of six months.
  • Amendments to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 will be introduced on 1 September, which will allow the State of Emergency to be in place for a total of up to 18 months – which includes the six months these arrangements have already been in place. The VHA will continue to monitor this as it develops.

The Victorian Government released a new information dashboard and case locations.

  • Data related to active case numbers, deaths, outbreaks, cases in aged care settings and hospitalisations will continue to be made publicly available online on a daily basis in a new format.
  • The site also lists ‘high risk locations’ identified by the public health team – places where there has been a known exposure period, and encourages Victorians who may have been there at the relevant time to be on alert for symptoms.
  • Services should use the data to keep up to date on active cases in their communities. More data will be added to the site as it becomes available.

 

Update on healthcare worker infections

Further information on healthcare worker (HCW) infections was released on Tuesday. Analysis found that HCW infections were acquired differently in the two waves of the pandemic in Victoria. In Wave 1, approximately 22 per cent of the HCW cases were infected in the healthcare setting at work; in Wave 2, between 70-80 per cent of HCW infections were obtained at work, with this figure, at a minimum, 69 per cent. The analysis also found that:

  • HCWs in aged care settings account for roughly two in five infections, while hospital workers account for around one-third of cases.
  • In hospitals, about 70 per cent of people who are infected are nursing staff, with a much smaller number who are medical staff and other HCWs.
  • The leading causes for HCW infections included cases being ‘cohorted’ in the same clinical space, contact between HCWs in areas like tea and break rooms, gaps in putting on and taking off PPE, movement of staff between facilities and older ventilation systems being less effective at ensuring good air flow.

In response to this analysis, the Victorian Government has implemented advice and recommendations from the newly established Healthcare Worker Infection Prevention and Wellbeing Taskforce. These recommendations include:

  • Every single health service, aged care facility, Aboriginal health organisation and GP clinic to be assessed to ensure that these workplaces are COVIDSafe, including additional random spot-checks.
  • Investigating the impact of fit testing on HCW infection rates, with a trial commencing at Northern Health which will be overseen by the Taskforce.
  • The Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority undertaking a COVID Aerosol Hot Spot Analysis Study to identify potential ‘hot spots’ in clinical spaces and model aerosol behaviour.
  • ‘PPE spotters’ to be deployed in hospitals to oversee PPE of workers entering and leaving COVID-19 environments.
  • WorkCover claims to be fast-tracked, with all claims being assessed within an average of 48 hours.

Aged care – new reports, funding and resources

The Newmarch House COVID-19 Outbreak Independent Review report was released this week. The independent review was commissioned by the Department of Health to understand what occurred and what could be learned from the experience, which at the time was the highest aged care outbreak. The report, available here, found that:

  • there was a lack of clarity in the relationships and hierarchy among government health agencies
  • the requirements for staff replacements could not have been reasonably anticipated, as they greatly exceeded the organisation’s planned surge capacity
  • routine IPAC practices needed to be significantly upgraded at the site to meet the challenge of containing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Residential aged care providers should review this document, particularly the summary of key learnings, and consider how to incorporate into their response to COVID-19.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission last Friday released a statement on regulatory action they have taken in Victoria to minimise the risk of COVID-19 to staff and consumers. The full statement can be found here.

The Commonwealth Government announced an additional $171.5 million in aged care funding following a meeting of the National Cabinet on Friday. The package includes:

  • More support for the aged care workforce:
    • $81 million for additional surge workforce and increased training for aged care workers.
    • $8.4 million for supplementary payments to include quarantine costs and interstate staff
    • $50 million to account for higher demand for retention bonus measures
    • $9.1 million for the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, established with the Victorian Government, to boost their additional workforce while undergoing more training
    • Supporting more compliance and quality checks on aged care providers by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, checking on preparations and responses to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Updated and new resources have been released to support providers this week, including:

Disability – further support and coordination

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments announced that a Disability Response Centre will be established to coordinate and manage outbreaks in disability facilities.

  • This Centre follows on from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.
  • A $15 million Worker Mobility Reduction Payment scheme to compensate disability residential service providers for delivering a ‘one worker-two sites’ cap will also be established. The funding will cover the lost hours of work for hard working staff as well the higher cost of sourcing additional workers. The scheme will run up until December 2020 linked to public health workforce directions and there will be exceptions for emergency situations.

The Commonwealth Government has announced temporary changes to allow NDIS providers in Victoria and NSW to directly claim the costs of PPE from the NDIA.

  • The changes will see providers able to claim an allowance of $1.70 per hour of support delivered in the Activities of Daily Life Support Category, to cover the cost of PPE.
    Providers will be able to claim for costs they have incurred for delivering daily living supports from 29 July. Providers will also be able to continue claiming for PPE costs through the Price Guide, in agreement with participants, as previously announced.
  • The Commonwealth Government is also working to streamline arrangements for providers to access PPE through the National Medical Stockpile where they are no longer able to access PPE through their usual means.

 

3 September

Premier to unveil roadmap out of restrictions this Sunday

Victoria has continued to see a trend in the reduction of COVID-19 cases, including its lowest case numbers since June as well as three consecutive days of case numbers below three figures. This has resulted in a drastic reduction of active cases and hospitalisations. The number of deaths, compared to previous levels, remains high, but this week’s figure was largely due to a number of deaths being reassigned from non-COVID-19 related deaths to confirmed COVID-19 related deaths. These positive pandemic trends have prompted the Victorian Government to announce that roadmap out of restrictions will be announced on Sunday, although this will be a slow and gradual process.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 26 August and 2 September:

  • 616 cases were identified in Victoria (18,608 – 19,224 total cases), 546 cases less than the previous week (1,162).
  • Unidentified community transmission, active cases and hospitalisations decreased, albeit only slightly:
    • There have been over 4,351 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing an increase of 245 cases on last week (4,116). This is a drop of approximately a third compared to last week’s increase (365).
    • There are 2,414 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of over 1,000 on last week (3,448). This is a significant drop in cases, despite a slowing rate of reduction in active cases compared to last week’s drop (3,667). This huge decrease in active cases over the past two weeks coincides with a period of 2-3 weeks since the peak of the second wave.
    • There are 406 cases in hospital, including 18 in intensive care – a decrease of 172 hospital cases in a week (578), and a decrease of 21 in ICU (39).
  • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,206 healthcare workers with 332 active cases. This represents an increase of 407 on last week’s total cases (2,799), but a reduction of 102 on the number of active cases (434).
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 576, with a further 114 COVID-19 related deaths announced in this past week (462). This is more deaths than during the prior week (99), but this increase is largely attributable to previously recorded deaths being reassigned as COVID-19 related.
  • Over 116,000 tests were processed (2,132,679< – 2,248,952<). This represents a fourth week of decreased tests compared to the number of tests conducted earlier in the pandemic. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Key developments

Victorian restrictions

On Monday the Premier announced that the Victorian Government will set out a roadmap for easing restrictions on Sunday 6 September. Stage 4 restrictions are currently due to expire on Sunday 13 September. The Premier subsequently announced that there would be separate roadmaps for Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria due to the case discrepancy, with regional Victoria likely to have restrictions eased quicker. The Premier has signaled that any roadmap will be a gradual and slow process, taking a longer-term approach than earlier in the year after the first wave. The VHA will monitor the announcement.

Early Wednesday morning, the Victorian Government passed legislation to extend the State of Emergency, with support from crossbenchers in the Legislative Council. The Victorian Government will have the option to extend the State of Emergency for a further 6 months if required, but there are further transparency requirements over these extensions. The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (State of Emergency Extension and Other Matters) Bill 2020 still needs to pass the Legislative Assembly, however the Government has a majority in the assembly making this a formality.

The Victorian Government also announced on Wednesday that the State of Disaster will be renewed until 11.59pm on 13 September 2020, bringing it into line with the existing State of Emergency declaration. That means the current restrictions, the State of Disaster and the State of Emergency can be aligned as Victoria sets out its roadmap.

Updated resources

As the pandemic continues, a range of new and updated support and resources for services were released in the past week. These include:

Aged care: funding and inspections

The Commonwealth Government announced an additional $563.3 million to continue to support the aged care sector’s response to COVID-19. The package includes an additional $245 million to extend the COVID-19 Support Payment for all residential aged care providers and an additional $154.5 million for a third Workforce Retention Payment based on employment at 30 November 2020.

The funding also includes an extension to the temporary 30 per cent increase to the viability supplement in residential and home care and the 30 per cent increase in the residential care homeless supplement to 28 February 2021. The VHA called for an extension to this supplement in its Commonwealth Budget 2020/21 pre-budget submission, available here. Services can view the new rates in the updated Schedule of Subsidies and Supplements. Providers should also note that updates to the Schedules of Fees and Charges for 20 September 2020 will be advised separately.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission last week announced that it is undertaking unannounced site visits to residential aged care services. The focus of the site visits is to ensure services are adhering to infection control arrangements including safe PPE protocols. The site visits are monitoring visits, and are not a performance assessment. The Commission will not undertake these infection control site visits with services that have known positive cases of COVID-19. More information on the infection control spot checks can be found here.

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre made a range of announcements and marked a month since its inception. For the first time since the Response Centre began operating there is only 1 facility categorised as high risk; there were 13 facilities in the Response Centre’s ‘high risk’ category in early August when the Centre first began operating. This signals that the situation in aged care is improving, mirroring the broader case trend in Victoria. The Response Centre also announced:

  • work with private industry, the Victorian Government and regulators to secure storage containers, rubbish collection, incinerators and safe disposal and processing of the waste. Waste has increased due to the amount of PPE required for staff implementing the increased measures to strengthen infection control. The Victorian EPA has also produced a clinical waste fact sheet to assist providers
  • an Isolated and Quarantined Staff document which provides advice on the role, responsibilities and activities these staff members can provide, as well as support that can be provided from residential aged care facilities
  • updated information and resources for residential aged care facilities on preparing communications.

Thursday 10 September

Victorian Government reveals roadmap for easing of restrictions

The Victorian Government has set out the roadmap for easing restrictions in the state, with a slow and gradual process to mitigate the risk of a third wave of infections. Stage 4 restrictions will be extended for a further 2 weeks, with the hope to have no restrictions before Christmas. However, moving between the stages is contingent upon reaching certain rolling case average milestones.

Fortunately, Victoria has continued its ongoing decline in COVID-19 cases, with just 43 cases announced on Monday. The number of new cases announced over the past week (444) is the lowest weekly increase since 1 July. The number of cases with unidentified community transmission also decreased.

Sadly, the number of deaths remains high, with a slight increase this week, partially due to reassignment of previous deaths to COVID-19. A sign that the rate of deaths should decrease is that hospitalisations have again been greatly reduced over the past week, although the number of people in ICU has stabilised following last week’s big reduction.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 2 and 9 September:

  • 444 cases were identified in Victoria (19,224 – 19,668 total cases), 172 cases less than the previous week (616). This continues an ongoing trend of decreasing numbers of new cases in recent weeks.
  • As of 9 September, the metropolitan Melbourne 14-day rolling case average is 74.5. The regional Victorian rolling average is 5.
  • Active cases and hospitalisations continued to decrease, while there was a slight reduction in unidentified community transmission cases.
    • There have been over 4,337 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing a decrease of 14 cases on last week (4,351). This drop highlights that a reduced caseload makes the process of contact tracing easier.
    • There are 1,622 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of nearly 800 cases on last week (2,414). This represents total active cases decreasing by a third in just a week, continuing the recent trend of significant drops in active cases in recent weeks.
    • There are 196 cases in hospital, including 20 in intensive care – a decrease of 210 hospital cases in a week (406), but a slight increase of 2 in ICU (18). The reduction in hospitalised cases is greater than the week prior (172), and represents an above 50 per cent reduction in cases in just a week.
  • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,360 healthcare workers with 252 active cases. This represents an increase of 154 on last week’s total cases (3,206), but a reduction of 80 on the number of active cases (332).
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 694, with a further 118 COVID-19 related deaths announced in this past week (576). This is a similar number of deaths compared to the prior week (114). The high number of deaths is partially attributable to previously recorded deaths being reassigned as COVID-19 related.
  • Nearly 180,000 tests were processed (2,248,952< – 2,428,778<). This is a significant increase in testing compared to the previous week (116,000) and more generally the last month. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Key developments

Victorian Government – roadmap and contact tracing

Premier Daniel Andrews, on Sunday, announced the roadmap for the easing of restrictions in Victoria.

  • The roadmap has five stages, with a gradual rollback of restrictions over the next three months. Stage 4 Restrictions will remain in effect until 28 September, but most restrictions will remain in place until, at the moment, 26 October. Progression to each stage has been given a projected date and a case target.
  • Regional Victoria, due to its lower caseload, will make faster progress through these stages.
  • The Premier was clear that he wanted to have a ‘COVID Normal’ Christmas, which would involve no restrictions.

The Victorian Government on Tuesday announced that it will establish new COVID Suburban Response Units across metropolitan Melbourne to ensure tailored and localised responses can be quickly established for future outbreaks.

  • The new suburban public health teams will mirror the successful program already established in Victoria’s regional centres. The units provide a local response to contact tracing and outbreak management.
  • Consultation is set to begin with health services and local government to determine the best location to set up a unit in each area, and to develop a model that suits the needs of each of these communities.
  • The Victorian Government will also begin publishing weekly contact tracing performance metrics online and is working with SalesForce to deliver a new case and contact management system.

 

Aged care – international workforce, outbreak review and care support

The Commonwealth Government has announced workforce measures to support aged care delivery, including:

  • Extending the relaxation of the 40 hour per fortnight work restriction for international student visa holders to all those working in aged care.
  • Allowing temporary visa holders with relevant skills to apply for a COVID-19 Pandemic event visa to work in aged care if they have an offer of employment.

Independent reviews into the COVID-19 outbreaks at St Basil’s Home for the Aged and Heritage Care Epping Gardens have now commenced. Both reviews will be conducted by Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly. The reviews will be carried out during September and October with the final reports due in mid-November 2020.

The Victorian Age Care Response Centre (VACRC) has launched a new ‘lunch and learn’ webinar series to support aged care providers.

  • The free, twice weekly, lunchtime webinar series will focus on different relevant issues. Click here for further information.
  • The VACRC has also developed a fact sheet with information to assist the aged care workforce to return to work in a safe way.

 

Commonwealth healthcare worker infection support

The Commonwealth Government on Wednesday announced that it is implementing three new measures to help provide increased protection to help reduce the number of healthcare workers being infected with COVID-19. The measures include:

  • A new partnership between the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) and the National COVID-19 Evidence Taskforce led by the Living Guidelines Consortium, which will contribute to national infection control guidance.
  • An expansion of national surveillance of healthcare worker infection to ensure a better understanding of COVID-19 among healthcare workers at the state and territory level.
  • A new network of ‘COVID-NET’ epidemiologists that will be available on request by state and territory public health units to assist with investigating healthcare worker outbreaks.

 

17 September

Minister unveils plan for reopening elective surgery in Victoria

The Victorian Government yesterday announced a plan to increase elective surgery immediately in regional Victoria, with an increase in metropolitan Melbourne to occur at the end of the month. This follows Victoria taking its first steps on its roadmap to ‘COVID Normal’ this week, with regional Victoria now at the Third Step due to its low case numbers.

Case numbers have continued to drop, with Melbourne’s 14-day case average dropping to below 50. On one day this week the state only saw a daily increase of 32 cases. This week also saw a dramatic reduction in deaths compared to recent weeks, with Victoria’s success in reducing case numbers finally having an impact. Victoria experienced its first day with no COVID-19 related deaths since 13 July.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 9 and 16 September:

  • 275 cases were identified in Victoria (19,668) – 19,943 total cases), 169 cases less than the previous week (444). This continues an ongoing trend of decreasing numbers of new cases in recent weeks.
  • As of 16 September, the metropolitan Melbourne 14-day rolling case average is 49.6, down from 74.5 last week. The regional Victorian rolling average is now 3.5, down from 5 last week.
  • Active cases and hospitalisations continued to decrease, while there was a slight reduction in unidentified community transmission cases.
    • There have been over 4,278 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing a decrease of 59 cases on last week (4,337). This is the second week in a row where the total number of cases dropped, which hopefully indicates community transmission has dropped. A reduced caseload makes the process of contact tracing easier.
    • There are 991 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of over 600 cases on last week (1,622). This represents total active cases decreasing by nearly 40 per cent in just a week, continuing the recent trend of significant drops in active cases in recent weeks.
    • There are 107 cases in hospital, including 11 in intensive care – a decrease of 89 hospital cases in a week (196), alongside a drop of 9 cases in ICU (20).
    • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,455 healthcare workers with 152 active cases. This represents an increase of 95 on last week’s total cases (3,360), but a reduction of 100 on the number of active cases (252).
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 737, with a further 43 COVID-19 related deaths announced in this past week (694). This is a drastic reduction in the number of deaths compared to the prior week (118).
  • The drop in deaths is starting to reflect the drop over the last few weeks in new cases.
    Over 90,000 tests were processed (2,428,778< – 2,520,887<). This is a decrease in testing of nearly half compared to the previous week (180,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Changes to healthcare delivery

The Victorian Government yesterday announced changes to elective surgeries. Elective surgeries will increase across Victoria’s regional public and private hospitals as soon as today and in metropolitan Melbourne from the end of September. The plan is:

  • Services in regional Victoria can increase to 75 per cent of usual elective surgery activity from today and 85 per cent from 28 September.
  • Hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne will begin to ramp up to 75 per cent of usual activity from the 28 September, when they enter the Second Step of the roadmap, and 85 per cent of usual activity when they move to the Third Step.
  • All Victorian hospitals will move to 100 per cent of usual activity when the state moves to the Last Step, planned for 23 November.

This plan is expected to result in approximately 18,750 additional elective surgeries across private and public hospitals in October and an extra 10,500 surgeries in November. The Victorian Government has also said it will reinstate the elective surgery blitz when safe. Specialist clinic consultations will increase in line with elective surgery activity.

There was also detail on broader health changes, with easing of restrictions for dental and allied health services in metropolitan Melbourne during the Second Step, from 28 September. This will allow the resumption of non-urgent dental procedures such as routine examinations, temporary fillings, simple extractions, preventive procedures like fluoride varnish and hand scaling, and dentures and orthodontic treatments. AHPRA-registered allied health professionals will also be able to see patients for face-to-face services for a broader range of treatments than just preventing hospital admission, such as for pain management or to prevent a deterioration in functional independence.

The Victorian Government this week also urged people to continue to access normal medical care if they require it. Emergency department visits have fallen by at least 25 per cent compared to the same time last year. Presentations for heart attack are down by 18 per cent and strokes by 24 per cent. Reporting for the five most common cancers (colorectal, prostate, breast, melanoma and lung) have reduced by about a third, with an even greater reduction in reports for head and neck cancer. This is expected to lead to an increase in cancer diagnoses over the next 12 months and more patients presenting with later-stage incurable disease.

The Victorian Government has also announced that the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020 will be introduced into the Victorian Parliament today. It extends a range of temporary changes made by the previous Omnibus Bill, introduced in April, for another six months.
The Bill being introduced also includes new temporary emergency measures to strengthen the state’s health response to COVID-19. These measures include broadening the types of people who can be appointed as Authorised Officers to enforce public health interventions, and clarifying powers to ensure people who test positive for COVID-19, or are close contacts, comply with a direction to self-isolate. These measures would expire on 26 April 2021. The VHA will monitor the progression and detail of the Bill.

Victorian restrictions easing

The past week has seen Victoria take a number of steps to reduce restrictions.

On Sunday, the state took its first steps on its roadmap to ‘COVID Normal’. Melbourne moved to the First Step with a slight alteration to Stage 4 Restrictions, with an additional hour of exercise, one less hour of curfew and small social bubbles. Regional Victoria moved to the Second Step of the roadmap.

Victoria’s State of Emergency and State of Disaster declarations were also renewed for another four weeks, ending at 11.59pm on 11 October 2020. This has prompted updates to the directions from the Chief Health Officer, including directions on hospital visitors, care facilities and workplace directions. Services should ensure they are aware and compliant with any changes.

Following these first steps on the roadmap, the Premier then announced on Tuesday that, from today, regional Victoria would move to the Third Step as its 14-day case average met the threshold to ease restrictions. Households can establish a ‘bubble’ with another household, people can gather in groups of ten in outdoor public places, and regional Victorians can travel to anywhere else in regional Victoria.

Commonwealth mental health clinics

The Commonwealth Government on Monday launched 15 new dedicated mental health clinics for Victorians.
The clinics were announced as part of a $31.9 million federal government mental health package in August to support Victorians during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have received $26.9 million to deliver care.

There will be nine HeadtoHelp clinics located in Greater Melbourne and six in regional Victoria. The locations are:

  • Greater Melbourne: Berwick, Frankston, Officer, Hawthorn, Yarra Junction, West Heidelberg, Broadmeadows, Wyndham Vale, Brunswick East
  • Regional Victoria: Warragul, Sale, Bendigo, Wodonga, Sebastopol and Norlane

Of these clinics, 9 are being delivered by VHA members, with 8 being delivered by community health services. Calling on the Commonwealth Government to identify registered community health services in Victoria as key delivery partners of the new mental health clinics was a key recommendation in the VHA’s ‘Pre-Budget Submission Commonwealth 2020-21′.

The clinics are staffed by multi-disciplinary teams of mental health professionals and will provide on-site mental health support, and connections to other mental health services in their region. The establishment of the clinics has been overseen by a joint federal and state Mental Health Pandemic Response Taskforce co-chaired by Dr Ruth Vine, the Australian Government Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, and Pam Anders, CEO Mental Health Reform Victoria. Click here to read the press release, while more information on HeadtoHelp is available here.

New resources and information

Over the past week there has been an increase in publicly accessible information on COVID-19 cases.

Alongside releasing broader information on case data and outbreaks, the Victorian Government is now releasing further information on specialised topics. These include:

  • Healthcare worker infection data
  • Contact tracing data
  • COVID-19 average case data

Services should stay up to date with the healthcare worker infection data, which is updated regularly and includes weekly summaries to identify trends. Currently, over 70 per cent of healthcare worker infections were acquired in a health or aged care setting.

The Commonwealth Government has also released the first data snapshot of residential aged care facilities which have recorded COVID-19 infections. The data includes all aged care facilities where there has been more than one case in either a staff member or resident. It shows that of the 2,706 aged care facilities in Australia, 213 – or 8 per cent – have had cases of COVID-19. The snapshot will be updated weekly, and is available here.

As the pandemic continues, a range of new and updated support and resources for services were released in the past week. These include:

 

24 September

Commonwealth extends funding for COVID-19 health measures

Victoria has continued to experience a reduction in cases, unidentified community transmission and the rate of deaths over the past week, continuing the positive trends from the past few weeks. Monday’s case number of 11 was the lowest since 16 June 2020, over 3 months ago.

This comes as the Commonwealth Government announced it will extend the COVID-19 telehealth MBS items, which has been widely called for, including by the VHA. Victoria has been the state with the highest use of these items, showing their utility during the pandemic, with potential to increase the use of virtual care beyond COVID-19.

The coming week looks set to be crucial, with metropolitan Melbourne set to take its first step on the roadmap. Further restrictions are set to be eased and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is set to release a special report into the COVID-19 aged care response.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 16 and 23 September:

  • 157 cases were identified in Victoria (19,943 – 20,100 total cases), 118 cases less than the previous week (275). This continues an ongoing trend of decreasing numbers of new cases in recent weeks.
  • As of 23 September, the metropolitan Melbourne 14-day rolling case average is 29.4, down from 49.6 last week. The regional Victorian rolling average is now 1.1, down from 3.5 last week.
  • Active cases and hospitalisations continued to decrease, while there was a slight reduction in unidentified community transmission cases.
    • There have been over 4,268 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing a decrease of 10 cases on last week (4,278). This is the third week in a row where the total number of cases dropped, which hopefully indicates community transmission has dropped. A reduced caseload makes the process of contact tracing easier.
    • There are 554 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of nearly 450 cases on last week (991). This represents total active cases decreasing by over 40 per cent in just a week, continuing the recent trend of significant drops in active cases in recent weeks.
    • There are 75 cases in hospital, including 8 in intensive care – a decrease of 32 hospital cases in a week (107), alongside a drop of 3 cases in ICU (11).
  • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,510 healthcare workers with 73 active cases. This represents an increase of 55 on last week’s total cases (3,455), but a reduction of 79, over 50 per cent, on the number of active cases (152).
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 771, with a further 34 COVID-19 related deaths announced in this past week (737). This is a slight reduction in the number of deaths compared to the prior week (43). The drop in deaths is starting to reflect the drop over the last few weeks in new cases.
  • Over 88,000 tests were processed (2,520,887< – 2,609,485<). This is a similar number of tests compared to the previous week (90,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

 

Ongoing reduction in cases

  • Victoria has continued to see a reduction in cases as metropolitan Melbourne moves closer to the first step on the roadmap, which is scheduled for 11.59pm Sunday 27 September 2020.
    • The 14-day average in Melbourne (29.4) is actually below the 30-50 average range required for the first step.
    • Elective surgery will also resume in metropolitan Melbourne at the same time as the easing of restrictions come into effect.
  • Premier Daniel Andrews has signalled that he will announce further easing of restrictions on Sunday 27 September beyond what is included in the first step.

COVID-19 care

  • The Commonwealth Government on Friday announced the extension of the COVID-19 telehealth MBS items as well as other COVID-19 health measures. More than $2 billion has been invested to extend these measures for a further six months, to 31 March 2021.
    • This extension covers Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics and further investments in PPE.
    • Since the MBS items were introduced, 3.2 million Victorians have accessed telehealth services, with 10.9 million services accessed. This is more than any other state.
    • The extension of the telehealth MBS items was a key recommendation in the VHA’s Commonwealth Budget 2020/21 submission, available here.
  • Further updated guidance was also released this week to support services.

Aged care – international workforce, outbreak review and care support

  • The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC) has announced it is moving to the recovery phase of the COVID-19 emergency.
    • VACRC is shifting focus onto prevention and infection control measures, while continuing to support facilities with existing outbreaks.
    • VACRC is working closely with DHHS intelligence to identify areas in the community experiencing community transmission, such as Casey, to provide a targeted response to any outbreak.
    • The number of active cases in aged care peaked at 2,075 on 16 August 2020, but was down to 284 as of yesterday.
  • The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will issue a special report on the COVID-19 pandemic in aged care ahead of its Final Report.
    • The report will be delivered to the Governor-General on 30 September 2020. It will contain specific recommendations from the Commissioners to expedite and facilitate the implementation of comprehensive measures to protect older Australians.
    • The Royal Commission held hearings on the COVID-19 response in August 2020 – a summary of proceedings is available on the VHA website.
    • The Final Report is due on 26 February 2021.
  • The Commonwealth Minister for Aged Care, Richard Colbeck, has also issued an instrument which amends the Aged Care (Leave from Residential Care Services) (Situation of Emergency-Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) Determination 2020 to extend the situation of emergency. This means services can provide emergency leave to residential aged care recipients across Australia until 30 June 2021, having initially been set to expire on 30 September 2020.

 

1 October

New Ministers and lower case numbers as Melbourne takes its second step

In another busy weekend for Victoria, Martin Foley replaced Jenny Mikakos as the Minister for Health. Minister Foley has prior knowledge of the sector and the VHA, having been the previous Minister for Mental Health. His former portfolio is now with the Deputy Premier James Merlino.

Case numbers have continued to drop, with the state again seeing new record lows, with only a two-digit increase in cases across the last week. This has allowed the Victorian Government to announce a further easing of restrictions beyond metropolitan Melbourne moving to the second step of the roadmap. This included changes to hospital visitor and care facilities directions, and the end of the curfew. But the ongoing threat means that some COVID-19 initiatives are still required; a number of supports for residents and providers in aged care were extended this week.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 23 and 30 September:

  • 69 cases identified in Victoria (20,100 – 20,169 total cases), 88 less than the previous week (157). This continues an ongoing trend of decreasing numbers of new cases in recent weeks.
  • As of 30 September, the metropolitan Melbourne 14-day rolling case average is 16.4, down from 29.4 last week. The regional Victorian rolling average is now 0.3, down from 1.1 last week.
  • Active cases and hospitalisations continued to decrease, while there was a slight reduction in unidentified community transmission cases.
    • There have been over 4,272 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing a slight increase of 4 cases on last week (4,268).
    • There are 305 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 249 cases on last week (554).  This represents total active cases decreasing by over 40 per cent in just a week, continuing the recent trend of significant drops in active cases in recent weeks.
    • There are 44 cases in hospital, including 6 in intensive care – a decrease of 31 hospital cases in a week (75), alongside a drop of 2 cases in ICU (8).
  • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,542 healthcare workers with 46 active cases. This represents an increase of 32 on last week’s total cases (3,510), but a reduction of 27 on the number of active cases (73).
  • The number of deaths in Victoria increased to 798, with a further 27 COVID-19 related deaths announced in this past week (771). This is a slight reduction in the number of deaths compared to the prior week (34). The drop in deaths is starting to reflect the drop over the last few weeks in new cases.
  • Over 86,000 tests were processed (2,608,485< – 2,694,959<). This is a similar number of tests compared to the last two weeks (90,000 and 88,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Changing restrictions

  • On Sunday, metropolitan Melbourne moved to Step 2 on the roadmap out of restrictions.
    • Hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne can now begin to ramp up to 75 per cent of their usual elective surgery activity.
    • Non-urgent dental procedures can resume, such as routine examinations, temporary fillings, preventive procedures and dentures and orthodontic treatments.
    • The rules around visiting hospitals and care facilities were slightly relaxed.
    • The new directions on care facilities and hospital visitors have been released, and services should implement them. Services should ensure they are compliant with all updated directions.
  • Further changes were announced to the roadmap; the move to the Third and Last Steps will no longer be defined by dates. Instead, the ‘trigger point’ for review will be based solely on reaching the already prescribed case number targets, as long as three weeks have passed since the last round of easing restrictions.

New workplace testing program

  • On Wednesday, the Victorian Government announced a new workplace testing program to ensure cases in the community were being identified to support the process of easing restrictions.
    • Workers in high-risk industries will be asked to participate in a new Surveillance Testing Program, with the aims to test 25 per cent of staff in a high-risk workplace each week.
    • All medium and large employers in the meat, poultry, seafood processing and supermarket and refrigerated distribution sectors will be included in the program.
    • Employees from high-risk industries can also receive testing at the state’s 200 testing sites from today, enabling workplaces to commence implementation over the next week. This includes community health respiratory clinics, hospital respiratory clinics and drive through testing facilities.
    • Services delivering testing sites should prepare to test this new cohort.

Ministerial change

Victoria has a new Minister for Health and a new Minister for Mental Health.

  • The Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos resigned on Saturday.
  • Martin Foley, previously the Minister for Mental Health, was appointed the Minister for Health.
  • It was later announced that the Deputy Premier James Merlino, already Minister for Education, would take over the mental health portfolio as well.
  • The VHA has welcomed Minister Foley’s appointment, having already engaged extensively with him in his previous role, and is engaging with both new Ministers and their offices to advocate on behalf of members.

Aged care – measures extended

There were multiple announcements this week around extensions to COVID-19 initiatives, as original deadlines are being reached.

  • The Commonwealth Government announced that emergency leave for aged care residents has been extended until 30 June 2021.
    • This will allow aged care residents to continue to take emergency leave during the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than using and potentially exhausting their social leave entitlements.
    • Residential aged care facilities will continue to be paid the residential care subsidy when residents are on emergency leave.
    • Further information is available in Minister Colbeck’s media release, as well as in a fact sheet for providers.
  • Relaxed assessment and referral pathway processes for CHSP have been extended until 30 June 2021. During this period, access to CHSP service may be provided to older Australians in COVID-19 affected areas without an aged care assessment where there remains an urgent need.
    • CHSP providers who have delivered emergency COVID-19 support to clients for eight weeks without an aged care assessment, and where the client requires ongoing services, must now support these clients to be assessed by a Regional Assessment Service.
    • The Guiding Principles for residential aged care are still in effect for workers in Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, as they have been extended to 26 October 2020; these may be extended further if necessary.
    • The Federal Government has made more funding available to providers to implement the Principles for an extra four weeks, until 26 October 2020, under the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 Grant. For further assistance, providers can contact the Guiding Principles Support Hub.

New and updated resources

As the pandemic continues, a range of new and updated support and resources for services were released in the past week. These include:

Where applicable, services should utilise these resources to support or guide care delivery.

 

 

Thursday 8 October

Budget fails to fully bolster Victorian healthcare ‘heroes’ as cases continue to drop

Active cases and hospitalisations all reduced in Victoria this past week, continuing the positive trends of recent weeks as Victoria moves towards the case target needed for the Third Step on the roadmap out of restrictions.

The big COVID-19 news primarily occurred at the national level. Tuesday’s Commonwealth Budget delivered some welcome health and aged care investments, but was primarily a missed opportunity. A focus on jobs and infrastructure meant a lack of healthcare announcements beyond those pre-released. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety also released its pandemic report, criticising the confusion in the national response.

The focus for the coming week will continue to be on the daily case totals, with Victoria needing to average less than 5 cases a day state-wide, as well as reduce cases stemming from unidentified community transmission, if the next steps are to be taken to ease restrictions.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 30 September and 7 October:

  • 68 cases were identified in Victoria (20,169 – 20,237 total cases), almost the same as the previous week (69).
  • As of 7 October, the metropolitan Melbourne 14-day rolling case average is 9.9, down from 16.4 last week. The regional Victorian rolling average is still 0.3, the same as last week.
  • Active cases and hospitalisations decreased, while there was a slight increase in unidentified community transmission.
    • There have been over 4,274 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing a slight increase of 2 cases on last week (4,272). Only 12 cases with an unknown source were identified in the past 14 days.
    • There are 206 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 99 cases on last week (305).  This continues the recent trend of significant drops in active cases in recent weeks.
    • There are 16 cases in hospital, including 2 in intensive care – a decrease of 28 hospital cases in a week (44), alongside a drop of 4 cases in ICU (6).
  • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,544 healthcare workers with 26 active cases. This represents an increase of only 2 on last week’s total cases (3,542), but a reduction of 20 on the number of active cases (46).
  • Sadly, 11 COVID-19 related deaths were announced this past week (798-809). This is a reduction in the number of deaths compared to the prior week (27).
  • Nearly 86,000 tests were processed (2,694,959< – 2,780,231<). This is a similar number of tests compared to the past three weeks (86,000, 88,000 and 90,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Key developments

Help for healthcare ‘heroes’ not a priority in the 2020-2021 Commonwealth Budget

  • The 2020-2021 Commonwealth Budget, ‘Economic Recovery Plan for Australia’, after being delayed from May due to COVID-19, was delivered on Tuesday night.
  • The Budget reports that the Australian economy has been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic repercussions will continue to be felt for years to come.
    • While Australia’s health system continues to respond to the impacts of COVID-19, particularly in Victoria, the budget speech focused extensively on jobs and infrastructure.
  • Health and aged care were not priority areas, but did some receive some important areas of investment.
    • 23,000 extra Home Care Packages, an additional $3.9 billion for the NDIS, and $1.8 billion public health spending as part of the ‘COVID-19 Response Package’.
    • Four of the key items identified in the VHA’s Pre-Budget submission to the Commonwealth Government were funded in the lead up to the announcement of the 2020-21 Commonwealth Budget. Read more here.
  • The budget, overall, failed to properly reflect the reality of health and aged care during COVID-19 or allow Australia to take full advantage of emerging opportunities stemming from the pandemic. While health will see a $4.9 billion investment in a range of measures to support Australians through the pandemic, a lack of forward-looking focus on reforming a health system for the ‘heroes’ working within it, is disappointing.
  • Read the VHA’s media release here.
  • The VHA’s member briefing, which was distributed to member CEOs, has a breakdown of health spending commitments and further analysis. It is available here.

Aged care – Royal Commission report, outbreak review and care support

  • The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety last Thursday issued its special report on the COVID-19 pandemic in aged care.
    • The report focused on the initial aged care response, and what it argued was a lack of direction, guidance and leadership which led to confusion in the response. The report was also particularly critical around visitation and the impact that stopping visitation has on residents.
    • The report contained 6 recommendations, including immediate funding for providers to facilitate visitation, the creation of MBS items for aged allied health during the pandemic, the creation of a national aged care plan. Another recommendation called for every residential aged care facility to have at least one infection control officer.
    • The Commonwealth Government has accepted all the recommendations, and has argued it is already delivering elements of the recommendations. A small amount of funding was announced to support the recommendations, including bringing forward the introduction of the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) and an additional $29.8 million in the SIRS for residential aged care.
    • A member briefing from the VHA on the special report, with further detail, is available here.
  • The Final Report from the Royal Commission is due on 26 February 2021.
  • The Commonwealth Government earlier this week announced that, to support the Victorian Government, capacity for asymptomatic testing of aged care workers will be extended and an additional seven million P2/N95 respirator face masks will be provided to metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire aged care providers.
    • The announcement signalled that all facilities in these areas will be able to request P2/N95 respirator masks using a one-off request form. Requests must be submitted by 30 October 2020.

Guidance for COVID-19 care

 

15 October

Case stabilisation as Victoria waits for next steps

Case numbers in Victoria have continued to stabilise, with a slight increase in the number of new cases this week. The 14-day rolling case average has gone up for the first time in over two months.
The Victorian Government had set a target of a 14-day average of 5 cases for the state to take the next step on its roadmap, which had been signalled to be 19 October. With the plateauing of cases, this is no longer achievable. However, the Premier has hinted that some social restrictions, including the 5km restriction, may be eased this Sunday as the state’s roadmap is being revised to reflect the reality of the situation.
Most of the COVID-19 focus this week was on the Victorian Government, who passed their revised Omnibus Bill as well as having to face scrutiny over the ongoing COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry, including the resignation of the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 7 October and 14 October:

  • 74 cases were identified in Victoria (20,311 – 20,237 total cases), almost the same as the previous two weeks (68 and 69). This signals that case numbers have plateaued.
  • As of 14 October, the 14-day rolling case average was 9.6 (metropolitan Melbourne), down slightly from 9.9 last week, echoing the plateauing of cases and 0.6 (regional Victoria), very similar to the last two weeks (0.3).
  • Active cases and hospitalisations decreased, while there was a slight increase in unidentified community transmission.
    • There have been over 4,282 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing a slight increase of 8 cases on last week (4,274). Only 14 cases with an unknown source were identified in the past 14 days.
    • There are 182 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 24 cases on last week (206). This compares to a drop of 99 last week and larger drops in the weeks before that, signalling the plateauing of case numbers.
    • There are 23 cases in hospital, with no cases in intensive care – a slight increase of 7 hospital cases in a week (16), alongside a drop of 2 cases in ICU (2).
  • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,589 healthcare workers with 16 active cases. This represents an increase of 45 on last week’s total cases (3,544), but a reduction of 10 on the number of active cases (26).
  • Sadly, 7 COVID-19 related deaths were announced this past week (809 – 816). This is a reduction in the number of deaths compared to the prior week (11).
  • Nearly 95,000 tests were processed (2,780,231< – 2,875,056<). This is an increase on the number of tests compared to the past four weeks (86,000, 86,000, 88,000 and 90,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Key developments

Testing changes in Victoria

  • The Victorian Government last Thursday announced that it would begin ramping up surveillance testing and preventative contact tracing measures in regional Victoria.
    • The focus is on targeted testing of workplaces in regional Victoria, to support steps to ‘COVID Normal’. This includes surveillance testing in several industries, including meat processing, supermarket and temperature-controlled perishable distribution centres.
    • A new workplace saliva testing trial has been established, building off a pilot program which was recently rolled out across three locations in Bendigo, Dandenong and the Melbourne CBD.
    • From last Monday, those identified as close contacts of people with a positive COVID-19 test result must get tested on day 11 or thereafter of their quarantine period, or they will have their quarantine extended.
    • Getting tested on day 11 of quarantine helps accurately identify whether it is safe for the close contact to be released from quarantine, without the risk of infecting other people.
    • Where a close contact does not agree to take the test, they will remain in quarantine for a total of 24 days from their last exposure to the virus to ensure public health is maintained.

Omnibus Bill passes

  • The COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020 this week passed Parliament after government concessions over controversial elements of the Bill.
    • The legislation is primarily focused on extending current COVID-19 protocols, including the moratorium on evictions, allowing council and committee meetings to be held online, as well as virtual court appearances. However, the Bill also introduces further powers to support implementation of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.
    • Government amendments were introduced which removed the most contentious elements of these changes, such as the power for designated authorised officers to detain people for preventative reasons as well as adding further restrictions on police officers becoming authorised officers.
    • The passed legislation also ensures that the State of Emergency can remain in place longer than 6 months, with it possible that it can be extended, without further legislation, to April 2021.
  • Earlier in the week, to ensure current directions can remain in place, the Victorian Government announced that the State of Emergency and the State of Disaster have been extended until 11:59pm on 8 November 2020.

Aged care – further information on funding, visits and PPE

  • The Commonwealth Government, on Wednesday, announced further details on criteria for accessing the second COVID-19 supplement.
    • One of the requirements is that every facility must have an onsite clinical lead for infection prevention and control, which was a recommendation in last week’s Royal Commission COVID-19 report.
    • While the Aged Care Advisory Group is working on specific IPC qualifications these leads must have, the Commonwealth Government has provided initial guidance, which is available here.
  • The Commonwealth Government has also announced that the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant Opportunity has been extended to cover the period to 30 November 2020. Approved providers can apply for funding up until 30 June 2021 to cover the costs of supporting eligible workers.
  • The Victorian Government this week issued updated information for visitors in residential aged care facilities.
    • Under the Victorian restrictions, a resident can only have one visitor at a time except in the case of end-of-life care. The quantity and duration of visits do not apply when support is being provided to a resident who is towards the end of their life.
    • Providers must continue to balance any measures they put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 against the broader responsibilities of care facilities to the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of their clients.
    • The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre also published new posters to assist aged care workers with correctly donning and doffing PPE.
    • Aged care providers in Victoria are encouraged to print and display these posters, which show how to correctly put on and take off PPE when entering or leaving areas with confirmed cases (red zones), suspected cases (amber zones) or no cases (green zones).

New and updated resources

As the pandemic continues, a range of new and updated support and resources for services were released in the past week. These include:

Where applicable, services should utilise these resources to support or guide care delivery.

 

Thursday 22 October

Changed guidance for aged care and healthcare services

The number of daily cases in Victoria has dropped to a new low following last week’s case stabilisation. This includes a day with only one new case in the state, which was a reinfection, and a number of days with no announced deaths.

Sunday saw the announcement of the easing of some social restrictions, with the promise of further changes to restrictions on 1 November, or sooner, depending on case numbers over the next week.

This easing of restrictions has prompted some changes in guidance for services, particularly in regards to aged care workforce testing and PPE usage.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 14 and 21 October:

  • 12 cases were identified in Victoria (20,311 – 20,323 total cases), a big reduction on last week (74) and recent weeks.
  • As of 21 October, the 14-day rolling case average was 6.2 (metropolitan Melbourne), down slightly from 9.6 last week, and 0.4 (regional Victoria), also slightly down on last week (0.6).
  • Active cases, overall cases of unidentified community transmission and hospitalisations all decreased in the past week.
    • There have been over 4,276 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – representing a slight decrease of 6 cases on last week (4,282). Only 10 cases with an unknown source were identified in the past 14 days.
    • There are 109 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 73 cases on last week (182). This compares to a drop of 24 last week.
    • There are 10 cases in hospital, with no cases in intensive care – a decrease of 13 hospital cases in a week (23), while there has been no change in the ICU figures.
  • The total cases in Victoria includes 3,602 healthcare workers with 8 active cases. This represents an increase of 13 on last week’s total cases (3,589), but a reduction of 8 on the number of active cases (16).
  • Only 1 COVID-19 related death was announced this past week (816 – 817). This is, again, a reduction in the number of deaths compared to the prior week (7).
  • Over 109,000 tests were processed (2,875,056< – 2,984,494<). This is an increase of roughly 14,000 on the number of tests compared to last week (95,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Key developments

Reduced restrictions

  • On Sunday, the Premier announced an easing of social restrictions, as well as a timeline for some further easing of restrictions.
    • From 11:59pm on Sunday, the five-kilometre limit for exercise and shopping was extended to 25 kilometres in metropolitan Melbourne, while the two-hour time limit for exercise and socialising was removed
    • Most importantly for healthcare delivery, allied healthcare professionals can now resume routine face-to-face care
    • Regional Victoria saw further reductions in restrictions on retail and gatherings
    • Further restrictions, primarily focused on retail, home visits and removing reasons to leave home, will be eased on 1 November, although they could be removed sooner if the caseload continues to remain low.
  • A summary of the easing of restrictions can be accessed here:

Changing directions and advice

Increased testing for aged care

  • Following the change in restrictions, DHHS has issued updated directives for workers and providers of residential aged care in Victoria, which came into force on 18 October 2020.
    • The Care facilities Directions (No 14) now requires visitors to make a declaration upon visiting a facility, as well as making minor changes on who can visit a facility.
    • The Workplace (Additional Industry Obligations) Directions (No 9) requires residential aged care facilities to conduct surveillance testing of staff. In metropolitan Melbourne, 50 per cent of the workforce should be tested each week, while in regional Victoria, the target is for 50 per cent of the workforce to be tested every fortnight.
  • Public sector residential aged care services, in partnership with their affiliated health service, will undertake regular asymptomatic testing for all staff working in PSRACS, with guidance below:
  • Following these changes, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre announced that the COVID-19 Early Warning System (EWS) will cease operation from today.
    • The system was designed to identify COVID-19 infections early through a voluntary notification process. However, in its current form, the EWS is not an accurate way to provide early detection, while the introduced surveillance testing will serve as a form of early warning for the presence of infection in facilities.
    • Services must still notify positive COVID-19 test results, immediately, by email to teamone.ccom@dhhs.vic.gov.au.
  • The Commonwealth Government this week also announced further support to enable testing in residential aged care facilities.
    • Residential aged care services in Victoria will be contacted by Melbourne Pathology or Aspen Medical, to offer in-reach testing for aged care workers. Services in hotspot locations will be prioritised.
    • Participation in testing is voluntary; however, all residential aged care workers are encouraged to participate.
    • The testing of asymptomatic aged care workers factsheet is available for further information.

 

29 October

Melbourne moves from ‘stay home’ to ‘stay safe’ as case numbers drop

Victoria continued to experience a reduction in COVID-19 cases this week, including its first day of zero cases in 139 days, allowing the state to move to the Third Step of the roadmap for re-opening.

Victoria’s success in reducing the number of cases meant that it dropped below the 14-day average of 5 which was necessary for the next reduction in restrictions. There was a slight delay on Sunday due to an outbreak in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, but a lack of cases meant that restrictions could be eased. The low number of cases is occurring alongside a high rate of testing.

If the low case numbers continue, it is anticipated that further reductions in restrictions will take place on 8 November 2020.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 21 and 28 October:

  • 19 cases were identified in Victoria (20,323 – 20,342 total cases), a similar amount to last week (12).
  • As of 28 October, the 14-day rolling case average was 2.7 (metropolitan Melbourne), down from 6.2 last week, and 0 (regional Victoria), also down on last week (0.4).
  • Active cases, overall cases of unidentified community transmission and hospitalisations all decreased.
    • There have been 4,276 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – with no change in the total number from last week (4,276). Only 3 cases with an unknown source were identified in the past 14 days across the state.
    • There are 80 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 29 cases on last week (109). This compares to a drop of 73 last week.
    • There are 3 cases in hospital, with no cases in intensive care – a decrease of 7 hospital cases in a week (10), while there has been no change in the ICU figures.
  • There are 6 active cases among health workers with a total of 3,582 healthcare workers infected to date. This represents a decrease of 20 on last week’s total cases (3,602), and a reduction of 2 on the number of active cases (8).
  • Only 2 COVID-19 related deaths were announced this past week (817 – 819), but these were re-assigned deaths from previous weeks.
  • Over 122,000 tests were processed (2,984,494< – 3,106,653<). This is an increase of roughly 13,000 on the number of tests compared to last week (109,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

New inquiry announced into contact tracing

The Legislative Council voted yesterday for the Legal and Social Issues Committee to conduct an inquiry into Victoria’s contact tracing system.

  • The report is due on 14 December 2020.

Further easing of restrictions expected 8 November

  • The Victorian Government, after a short delay to allow for testing around an outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, announced on Monday a further easing of restrictions.
  • The entirety of Victoria is now on the Third Step of the roadmap for re-opening, although regional Victoria has further eased restrictions compared to metropolitan Melbourne.
  • Further restrictions, subject to how the case load develops, will be eased on 8 November 2020.

New Victorian Aged Care Response Centre resources

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC) this week released a number of resources and guidance for aged care facilities dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. This includes advice on communicating with families.

  • The resources include factsheets on establishing and maintaining ongoing communications with residents, nominated representatives, families and staff in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak and a contact details template.

New and updated resources

As the pandemic continues, a range of updated support and resources for services were released in the past week.

These include:

Where applicable, services should utilise these resources to support or guide care delivery.

 

 

Thursday 12 November

 Victoria moves towards COVID-normal

Victoria continued to experience a reduction in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, following up its first day of zero cases in 139 days with 12 consecutive days of no announced cases. This success has allowed the state to further change restrictions, with the entire state on the Third Step of the roadmap for re-opening and at the same level of restrictions.

Victoria’s success in reducing the number of cases meant that the 14-day average is nearly zero, with other states making plans to ease border restrictions with Victoria. The low number of cases has been bolstered through the ongoing high rates of testing, which is providing confidence over the figures.

If the low case numbers continue, it is anticipated that further reductions in restrictions will take place on 22 November 2020. The state budget will be announced on 24 November 2020, with the Victorian Government’s recent announcement of support and funding for ‘Victoria’s Recovery Workforce’ and a wellbeing program for health workers, signalling that the pandemic and its impact will feature prominently in the budget.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 28 October and 11 November:

  • 3 cases were identified in Victoria (20,342 – 20,345 total cases), with Victoria experiencing an ongoing run of 12 successive days without any new cases.
  • As of 11 November, the 14-day rolling case average was 0.4 in metropolitan Melbourne, down from 2.7 two weeks ago, and has continued to remain 0 in regional Victoria.
  • Active cases, overall cases of unidentified community transmission and hospitalisations have decreased, following the absence of new cases.
    • There have been 4,277 Victorian cases of possible community transmission – an addition of 1 in the total number from two weeks ago (4,276).
    • There are 4 active cases in Victoria – a decrease of 76 cases on two weeks ago (80).
    • There are 2 cases in hospital, with no cases in intensive care – a decrease of 1 hospital cases (3), while there has been no change in the ICU figures.
  • There are no active cases among health workers with a total of 3,574 healthcare workers having been infected to date. This compares to 6 active cases two weeks ago.
  • No COVID-19 related deaths have been announced in the past two weeks (819).
  • Over 236,000 tests were processed (3,106,653< – 3,342,896<) in the past two weeks. People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Reduced restrictions following low cases

The Victorian Government, following the continuing lack of cases, announced on Sunday a further easing of restrictions.

The entirety of Victoria remains on the Third Step of the roadmap for re-opening, but the regional and metropolitan Victoria now have the same restrictions and the ‘ring of steel’ has been removed.

The State of Emergency has been extended to 6 December 2020; the State of Disaster has lapsed.

Further restrictions, subject to how the case load develops, will be eased on 22 November 2020, including the restoration of services operating at 100 per cent of their elective surgery capacity.

In response to the restrictions changes, directions from the Chief Health Officer have also been updated:

Victorian Government announces further support and changes

The Victorian Government released a healthcare worker wellbeing package to support healthcare workers who have been working during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $9.8 million package includes the development of a healthcare worker wellbeing centre, which will identify best practice approaches to supporting staff fatigue and stress management, provide advice and training opportunities, and host resources through a web platform.

The centre will support individual healthcare worker wellbeing, for clinical and non-clinical roles, across acute and community-based settings including hospitals, community health, aged care and primary care settings.

The package also includes a range of other support, such as:

  • Improving staff rest and recovery areas in health services that enable physical distancing.
  • Increasing access to specialist services and support.
  • A grants process for on the ground psychosocial support, peer training models and programs to support wellbeing in health services and registered community health services.
  • Expanded access for payments for reasonable medical expenses under the Better mental health provisional payments pilot.

The Victorian Government announced, as part of the upcoming 2020/2021 state budget, $235 million to create 500 new jobs across mental health, family violence, health and child protection to support ‘Victoria’s Recovery Workforce’ after the pandemic.

In mental health this includes additional positions for child and youth psychiatry registrars, and funding for new part-time positions and cadetships for people with a lived experience of mental health. This was an interim recommendation made by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

Some other funding components include:

  • $4.3 million to increase the number of available mental health nurse graduate positions across Victoria.
  • $4.6 million to support pathways into employment in the community services, disability and aged care sector.
  • $25.62 million to employ new specialist alcohol and other drug workers.
  • $8.1 million to support the coordination of up to 240 traineeships in the family violence and sexual assault support workforce
  • $40 million for a service delivery fund for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health organisations.

The Victorian Government is also expected to announce changes to its Quarantine Program, following the release of the Interim Report on the program.

  • The Board of Inquiry last Friday published an Interim Report which identifies issues that have emerged from the Inquiry to date and makes recommendations for a Quarantine Program in Victoria.
  • The report makes a number of recommendations, including establishing a home-based quarantine program to support the facilities program, having an infection prevention and control unit at each site, having one department and Minister accountable for delivery and ensuring facilities have sufficient proximity to hospitals.
  • A final report will be released in December 2020.

Aged care – IPC lead requirements announced

The Commonwealth Government have released further guidance and requirements for providers on infection prevention and control (IPC) leads.

  • As previously announced, all residential aged care facilities must appoint an IPC lead.
  • Further guidance on IPC leads, including specific training and reporting requirements are contained in a new letter from the department’s Secretary, Dr Brendan Murphy.
  • All residential aged care facilities must appoint an IPC clinical lead by 1 December 2020.
  • By 31 December 2020, all nominated IPC leads must have enrolled in and/or commenced a suitable IPC training course if they do not have suitable existing qualifications.
  • Individuals enrolled in training courses must have an identified date for completion that is before 28 February 2021.
  • The Commonwealth Government expects that the second COVID-19 supplement will be used to fund the IPC lead and their training.
  • More information on the IPC lead requirement is available on the department’s website.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has announced that it has launched a ‘lessons learned’ project for the pandemic.

  • The goal of this project is to collect and share the lessons learned by providers who experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in one or more of their residential aged care services.
  • The Commission is in the process of conducting interviews with providers and plans to complete interviews by the end of November 2020.
  • Once this information has been collected, the Commission will share the lessons learned by providers across the aged care sector in a de-identified way.

New and updated resources

As the pandemic continues, a range of updated support and resources for services were released in the past two weeks. These include:

Where applicable, services should utilise these resources to support or guide care delivery.

 

26 November

 Victoria continues to break COVID-19 records

Victoria has continued to set new records with its COVID-19 success over the past two weeks, experiencing 26 consecutive days of no announced cases, while on Tuesday the state had no active cases for the first time in 270 days.

This success has allowed the state to further change restrictions, with the state now on the Last Step of the roadmap for re-opening, preparing to eventually move to ‘COVID normal’ if the current success remains.

The state budget was announced on Tuesday, with the ongoing pandemic response, and supporting the health system through ‘COVID normal’, a key focus of many funding initiatives. With services, from last Sunday, able to work at 100 per cent of their elective surgery capacity, the budget included funding for a $300 million elective surgery ‘blitz’.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 11 November and 25 November:

  • 0 cases were identified in Victoria (20,345 – 20,345 total cases), with Victoria experiencing a run of 26 consecutive days without any new cases.
  • There are 0 active cases, with the final active case certified as non-active earlier this week. There had been 80 active cases four weeks ago.
  • There have been, overall, 4,277 Victorian cases of possible community transmission.
  • There are no active cases among health workers – a total of 3,574 healthcare workers were infected, 2,602 acquired at work.
  • No COVID-19 related deaths have been announced in the past two weeks (819).
  • Over 188,000 tests were processed (3,342,896< – 3,531,242<) in the past two weeks. This is a reduction of 38,000 compared to the testing number in the previous two weeks (236,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Reduced restrictions following low cases

  • The Victorian Government, following the continuing lack of cases, announced on Sunday a further easing of restrictions as the state moved to the Last Step on the roadmap for re-opening.
  • This led to the removal of a range of restrictions, including the restoration of services operating at 100 per cent of their elective surgery capacity.
  • Subject to ongoing success of limiting cases, the next stage on the roadmap is ‘COVID Normal’.
  • In response to the change in restrictions, directions from the Chief Health Officer have also been updated, including for:
    • Hospital visitors
    • Care facilities
    • Services should ensure they follow directions for both, if relevant. For both care facilities and hospitals, there are no restrictions on purpose, number or time limits for visitors, but facilities may implement their own rules.

Victorian state budget 2020-21 – Investment in pandemic response

  • The Victorian Government released its 2020-21 state budget on Tuesday, announcing a range of health funding initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A member briefing from the VHA, which provides a full analysis and breakdown of the budget for services, is available here. The VHA has welcomed the budget and its $9 billion investment in the health sector.
  • Some key pandemic-related health investments included:
    • $152.5 million dollars to support the ongoing coronavirus mental health response to increased demand for mental health and AOD services.
    • $241.3 million investment in social services to respond to COVID-19 to address increased demand for services such as family violence, homelessness, and food relief.
    • $300 million to support the delivery of an elective surgery care waitlist ‘blitz’.

Aged care – Change to visitor guidelines

New and updated resources

As the pandemic continues, a range of updated support and resources for services were released in the past two weeks. These include:

Where applicable, services should utilise these resources to support or guide care delivery.

 

10 December

Over 40 days of no new cases

Victoria has now experienced 40 consecutive days of no new cases of COVID-19, although this record is likely to end soon after the recent restoration of international flights and the hotel quarantine program.

This success has allowed the state to further change restrictions, with the state now on the final ‘COVID normal’ step of the roadmap for re-opening, with the current arrangements likely to be in place until the end of January 2021.

While COVID-19 has not caused as much direct impact on the health system of late, the lingering impact of the pandemic, and the learnings from it, can be seen in the redistribution of DHHS, the continuation of telehealth support, and enhanced aged care provision.

COVID-19 by numbers

Between 25 November and 9 December:

  • 0 cases were identified in Victoria (20,345 – 20,345 total cases), with Victoria experiencing a run of 40 consecutive days without any new cases.
  • This means:
    • There are 0 active cases, with no active cases during the last two weeks.
    • There have been, overall, 4,277 Victorian cases of possible community transmission.
    • There are no active cases among health workers – a total of 3,574 healthcare workers were infected, 2,602 acquired at work.
  • No COVID-19 related deaths have been announced in the past two weeks (820).
  • Over 120,000 tests were processed (3,531,242< – 3,651,779<) in the past two weeks. This is a reduction of 68,000 compared to the testing number in the previous two weeks (188,000). People are encouraged to get tested if they have any symptoms.

Reduced restrictions following low cases

  • The Victorian Government, following the continuing lack of cases, announced on Sunday a further easing of restrictions as the state moved to ‘COVID normal’, the final stage, on the roadmap for re-opening.
  • This led to the removal of a range of restrictions, including easing restrictions around the use of face masks.
    Victoria is expected to remain at this level until the end of January 2021, subject to ongoing success in maintaining low to no new cases.
  • In response to the change in restrictions, directions from the Chief Health Officer have been updated, including for:
  • Services should ensure they follow directions for both, if relevant. For both care facilities and hospitals, the updated directions remove the limitations on the purpose, number and time limits for visitors to patients or residents.

Government changes in response to COVID-19

  • The Victorian Government announced at the end of November that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will be separated into two new departments to support the pandemic recovery.
    • The new Department of Health (DoH) and the new Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) will commence operation from 1 February 2021.
    • The Department of Health will be responsible for the Health, Ambulance Services, Mental Health and Ageing portfolios and will continue leading the Government’s public health response to the pandemic.
    • The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing will include the current DHHS portfolios of Child Protection, Prevention of Family Violence, Housing and Disability.
  • The Commonwealth Government also made an announcement at the end of November that pandemic-related telehealth MBS arrangements will be made permanent post-pandemic.
    • Minister Hunt noted the impact of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • No details were announced on whether all, or what, aspects of the COVID-19 MBS items would be continued.

Aged care – Change to visitor guidelines

  • The Commonwealth Government has accepted and acted on all six recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on COVID-19.
    • The Implementation Progress Report on the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report – Aged Care and COVID-19 – a special report.
    • The Commonwealth Government also announced it has invested a further $132.2 million to respond to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s recommendations on COVID-19. This funding package includes new measures to support access to mental and allied health services through the MBS and support for Infection Prevention and Control training within residential aged care facilities.
  • The Commonwealth Government has also introduced the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Serious Incident Response Scheme and Other Measures) Bill 2020 into Parliament.
    • Successful passage of the Bill will enable the SIRS in residential aged care and flexible care delivered in a residential aged care setting to start from 1 April 2021.
    • The SIRS forms part of the Government’s response to the Aged Care Royal Commission recommendations into COVID-19 and aims to increase protection for aged care residents.
    • More information is available in the ministerial media release.

New and updated resources

As the pandemic continues, a range of updated support and resources for services were released in the past two weeks. These include:

Where applicable, services should utilise these resources to support or guide care delivery.

Video: In Conversation with Peter Doherty and briefing with OnePassport

6 October 2020

World-renowned immunologist Peter Doherty explores the global pandemic and the impact on the health system as well as the progress of a vaccine.

The following videos were recorded at a VHA event:

  • Session 1: In Conversation with Peter Doherty
  • Session 2: Briefing with OnePassport