A new initiative funded by the Federal Government aims to help Victorian residential aged care providers welcome back visitors to facilities as the number of outbreaks nears zero.
Providers can apply for a funded Residential Aged Care Visitation Assistant for two-to-eight weeks to help residents communicate with their families through safe in-facility visits or technology.
The initiative, which was announced by the Department of Health on 4 November, also aims to provide relief for existing staff during the pandemic.
Visitation assistants are primarily responsible for assisting residents with visitors and remote contact. Their role includes:
- working with the facility to identify safe modes of communication
- helping facilities to schedule in-person visits
- assisting visitors with personal protective equipment and hand hygiene requirements
- helping residents use technology to contact family and friends remotely
- assisting staff with low-level care such as meal distribution, non-intimate care, linen distribution and front office and administration tasks.
Victorian providers interested in taking up the initiative should email email@example.com to discuss the opportunities available.
The announcement comes as the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre reported three remaining active outbreaks in residential aged care on 10 November, down from five the day before, but zero active cases linked to facilities.
There have been 4,634 COVID-19 cases linked to Victorian residential aged care to date, including 1,962 residents, 2,037 staff members and 635 other close contacts, and 652 COVID-positive residents have died, according to the VACRC.
Nationally, 2049 aged care residents have tested positive COVID-19, of whom 1,364 recovered and 685 died, according to the Federal Department of Health data as at 10 November.
Visitor update for Qld
Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young recently issued an update to aged care visitation rules.
The changes, which came into effect on 3 November, include disallowing visitors if they are waiting for a COVID-19 test result and will allow people who have been overseas or in a COVID-19 hotspot to visit a loved one in aged care who is near the end of their life.
Following the update visitors can visit a resident in their room, outdoors or in a specified area in the facility but should avoid communal spaces.
Residents should have no more than two visitors at a time, which includes doctors, and visitors should follow appropriate infection control measures, such as washing hands before entering and leaving the facility.
Find out more here.
Restrictions lifted in SA
An updated has also been issued in South Australia. It aims to continue protect residents, staff and others from COVID-19 transmission while supporting the wellbeing of residents and their families.
Under the new direction, which came into effect on 5 November, personal care workers can work across multiple sites provided they notify their facility.
All staff providing nursing or personal care to residents must complete COVID-19 infection control training determined by the SA Department of Health and Wellbeing.
Residents can now come and go from their aged care facility for any reason and receive and unlimited number of visits from family, friends and loved ones each day.
The update also means people from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and New Zealand can visit aged care facilities immediately after they enter the state.
People from Victoria are only permitted to enter a facility within 14 days of arriving in SA if they are visiting a residents who is at end of life.
Find out more about the Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 12) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 here.
Masks no longer mandatory in NSW
In New South Wales, masks are no longer necessary in all aged care facilities under guidance from the state’s health department NSW Health issued on 4 November.
However, NSW Health recommends providers plan for all staff to wear surgical masks should it be recommended in the future because of an increased risk of local transmission.
If an outbreak occurs near any facility, providers will need to rapidly implement additional protections, such as masks for all staff and visitors.
Find out more here.