The government-funded initiative supporting aged care residents to take emergency leave during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended, the government has announced.

The extension comes as the number of active cases linked to aged care facilities falls to 182 and facilities with outbreaks to 55, according to Victorian Aged Care Response Centre’s update on 29 September.

There have been than 4,610 positive cases of COVID-19 linked to aged care facilities in Victoria, including 1,962 residents, 2,023 staff and 625 close contacts, and 624 of these aged care residents have died.

The emergency leave mechanism was due to wrap up at the end of the month but is now in effect until 30 June 2021, Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck announced on Sunday.

Under the mechanism, which was implemented in May but backdated to commence on 1 April, the Federal Government pays providers for residents to take temporary leave from their aged care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic or other declared emergency if safe and appropriate to do so (read more here).

To date, a total of 4,216 residents have taken emergency leave from their aged care home since the initiative came into effect in April, Mr Colbeck told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“As at 28 September 2020, there are currently only 350 residents on leave under the emergency leave provision,” Mr Colbeck said.

Mr Colbeck said the extension would support providers and residents through the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Richard Colbeck

“Many permanent residential aged care residents want to temporarily relocate with family to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19, and the Australian Government supports that choice where appropriate,” Mr Colbeck said.

“By introducing this arrangement, we are giving senior Australians the option of staying with family for the duration of the emergency, without the extra worry about using or exhausting their normal social leave entitlements,” Mr Colbeck said.

Usually permanent residents are only entitled to 52 days of social leave away from their aged care home, after which the Government stops paying the subsidy to facilities, which might pass the cost onto the resident.

The initiative aims to ensure neither residents nor providers are financially disadvantaged because of the pandemic.

Residents who take emergency leave can access support services through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme such as personal care, nursing, meals, social support, allied health, grocery shopping and transport.

Nationally, 2,049 aged care residents have tested positive and 663 of these residents have died since the pandemic started, according to federal government data on Tuesday.

This story has been updated to include comments from Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck.

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