The health department has issued advice on what facilities should do when experiencing an outbreak and on the correct use of personal protective equipment, as it confirms coronavirus is in 17 homes around the country.

The are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in aged care facilities in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, the federal health department said.

“As of 2 April 2020 at 2pm, 41 care recipients and staff in 17 aged care services across the country have tested positive for COVID-19,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health told Australian Ageing Agenda.

As previously reported by Australian Ageing Agenda, there are multiple confirmed aged care cases of COVID-19 in Sydney at BaptistCare NSW & ACT Dorothy Henderson Lodge (22 cases) and Opal Aged Care Bankstown (4).

This according to data from NSW Health, which reports the names of places with clusters of two or more locally acquired cases.

On Thursday, the Department of Health issued a reminder that facilities needed to inform the department when experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak so it and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission can provide assistance.

“It is critical that you urgently advise us if you have any confirmed cases of either residents or care recipients or workers in your facility, service or program,” the health department said.

“Once you have advised us of any confirmed cases the Government can quickly assist with:

  • PPE
  • staff supplementation and reimbursement.”

Providers are advised to email agedcareCOVIDcases@health.gov.au to receive a prompt response to discuss support options.

“This information will also be communicated to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to enable ongoing actions to ensure that aged care providers are supported in providing safe, quality care during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,” the department said.

New advice, training on PPE

The department has also launched a fifth online training module related to coronavirus for aged care workers, this one on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Standard precautions are always used in aged care settings and transmission-based precautions should additionally be used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the department said.

It said when caring for residents or clients with COVID-19, this means:

  • contact and droplet precautions when entering the room, providing any direct care or support, or cleaning, including gown, gloves, surgical face mask and eye protection, and
  • airborne precautions when conducting aerosol-generating procedures or caring for individuals who are coughing excessively requires a P2/N95 Respirator

“Staff working in residential care must change their PPE and perform hand hygiene after contact with any resident  who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 or when moving from one room to another,” the department said.

The new training module provides greater detail on the use of PPE and how to apply and remove PPE in the correct order.

Using eye protection

The department has also shared advice from the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) about when residential aged care workers should wear eye protection in response to reports of uncertainty in the sector.

Protective eyewear can be in the form of safety glasses, eye shield, face shield, or goggles, it said.

When caring for an asymptomatic resident in quarantine, contact and droplet precautions should be observed, including PPE, however, eye protection is optional, according to the advice.

“If the resident later becomes symptomatic or is a confirmed case of COVID-19, staff contacts not wearing eye protection should not be quarantined as close contacts if all other precautions had been observed and they remain well, unless direct contact with respiratory secretions had occurred, such as a splash injury to the face,” the department said.

The PPE training module is the fifth in the series to date of COVID-19 training modules for aged care workers.

The others are:

  1. Personal Safety
  2. Families and Visitors
  3. COVID-19 and Aged Care
  4. Outbreak Management

People wishing to access the aged care training modules are advised to register their workplaces as ‘Aged Care’.

Anyone already registered for online training but without ‘Aged Care’ as their  workplace should email support@covid-19training.gov.au for a priority response.

Access all the training modules here.

Comment below to have your say on this story. Subscribe to Australian Ageing Agenda magazine and sign up to the AAA newsletter

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. At this time, most of the COVID-19 notifications relate to staff members.
    Is the government recommending that staff wear ‘standard’ masks when providing direct care to residents?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.