Do you want to understand COVID 19 from an Aged Care Perspective?

I am sure like most of us we are overwhelmed with information about the COVID 19 situation.  I am going to attempt to summarise and pull together all of the current relevant information being presented by the news media and the regulators as well as the government.

A most distressing aspect of this crisis is the very well publicised difficulties being experienced by Newmarch House in Sydney where tragically there have been fourteen fatalities (to 3/5/20).  I am sure every service provider in Australia is conscious that it could well be their service.

I am confident that the vast majority of providers in the aged care sector have implemented their infection control protocols and taken actions to protect their elderly and at-risk consumers.  As with everything, there may be a few who have taken actions that are seen as too restrictive.

The Prime Minister raised concerns about aged care services going above and beyond the recommended visitor restrictions citing that keeping people in their own rooms and not allowing visitors is contrary to the National Cabinet advice.

Understandably the majority of service providers were outraged by some comments in the media. As a follow on to these concerns a number of aged care groups, as well as the main peak bodies, worked with the Minister to develop a draft “Aged Care Visitors Access Code”.  Following a period of time (to 7/5/20) for feedback, it is hoped to finalise this Code by May 11 2020. The objective of the code is to facilitate safe and regular communication between residents and their family, family of choice or friends during the pandemic while minimising the risk of the introduction to a residential home.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has set out a list of areas in a survey they are seeking to have completed by the industry.  They include:

  • What arrangements have you in place for Home care services – They have produced a Guide 22/4/20 – see below.
  • Service Planning -Infection control plans; business continuity; welfare checks; phone or video call interactions with clients and more.
  • Clinical Governance – Do you have clear processes; have you identified consumers with high risk and high priority needs?
  • What does your information and education for staff and volunteers around infection control look like?
  • Workforce Actions: Do you have up to date contact details including emergency contacts?
  • Equipment and Resources: Do you have sufficient PPE and Policies and procedures in line with Department of Health advice?
  • Have you increased the frequency of cleaning, stethoscopes, monitors and shared workspaces?
  • Consumer Actions: Is your consumer contact information updated?  Have you provided consumer’s families with information on preventative measures? Have you identified who will be responsible for ongoing contact with consumers and their representatives?
6 Actions That Are Important:
  1. Pick up the phone and call your consumers/representatives.
  2. Schedule a (virtual) consumer/representative meeting.
  3. With the economic downturn budget cuts are inevitable. Prioritising the most critical aspects that have the most impact on business continuity.  Avoiding unnecessary costs etc.
  4. Get comfortable with budgeting. This will be a topic of conversation for all new work.
  5. Work at being able to demonstrate efficiencies that do not have a negative effect on consumers.
  6. Business, as usual, is not something we should expect for the foreseeable future.
Aged Care Quality and Safety Standards Commission

The Quality and Safety Standards Commission has published a number of resources around COVID.  These include:

  • A Guide for Home Care Providers (22/4/20)
  • Supporting safe, quality care for aged care consumers during visitor restrictions.
  • Letter to the sector from the Commission’s Chief Clinical Advisor (22/4/20)

All of these are well worth a look at – click here>>

A Guide for Home Care Providers: The intent of this document is to guide providers who are assisting people living at home.  It covers organisations; Equipment and Resources and Staffing.  It has been specifically developed as part of the COVID 19 management.

Supporting safe, quality care for aged care consumers during visitor restrictions:  It examines:
  • Communicating about visitor restrictions and providing ongoing information.
  • Supplementary and alternative arrangements that have been put in place to support families, friends and others.
  • Alternative arrangement to inform and receive feedback from families, friends and others.
  • Additional measures put in place to support safe, quality care.
  • Appropriate access to visitors.
  • The service supports residents to leave the service to receive care when needed and to return following that care.
Aged Care Workers who work across at least two facilities:

The important things here is set out clearly:

  • When they can and cannot work.
  • Importance of good hygiene.
  • PPE practices.                                                                                
COVID 19 App

The 64 million dollar question is to download or not download?

Although voluntary at this stage the Prime Minister has not ruled out making it mandatory if insufficient number download the app. You are probably aware that the app uses your Smartphone’s  Bluetooth to ‘ping’ of others if you come into contact with someone for more than 15 minutes.

So if someone you’ve been in close contact with is diagnosed with COVID-19 person, even if you do not know them, the Government is able to study the data and find out who they have come into close contact with, alerting those people to isolate and potentially stop spreading the virus further.

My family and I have downloaded the app and I strongly recommend others do so (if you haven’t done so already).  I find it curious that people share everything on social media but are reluctant to participate in the data collection of this app.

Royal Commission into Aged Care:

The Commission is seeking the experiences of people who have been directly affected by the coronavirus while they have been receiving aged care services.

They are seeking submissions from recipients of aged care services; families; supporters of recipients; aged care services providers and workers in aged care.

The Commission is aware that people may not be able to make a submission at present due to their current commitments.  They have tentatively set 30 June 2020 for submissions but know that this might change depending on the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

You can head to the Aged Care Royal Commission website and go to the Aged Care Guide’s COVID-19 page.