The federal government says it will send rapid response teams out to home care providers and has pledged to guarantee supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of its coronavirus support for the community sector.

Dr Michael Lye, the health department’s deputy secretary of ageing and aged care, says providers should not panic about running out of PPE because aged care will be given priority for access to the national stockpile.

“We will guarantee your supply,” he told a national webinar on COVID-19 perparedness for the home and community care sector last Friday.

“Once you have cases of COVID-19 in your practice the department is establishing rapid response teams which will be available to go and visit your workplace and talk to you about the needs that you might have in terms of managing workforce needs, infection control procedures and access to PPE,” Dr Lye said.

“At the point that you have an incident that’s confirmed, that’s the time to contact your state health authorities and we will be there to assist.”

Dr Lye also said the government would support home care providers with workforce issues via a range of measures, including the potential use of graduates and students, and loosening of visa requirements.

Community Care Review understands peak organisations were last week overwhelmed by enquiries about the seminar, which was only available to invited stakeholders and providers. It is now available for viewing here.

 

Experts address home care providers at a webinar on Friday March 6.

 

A constellation of challenges’

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said the home care sector was faced with “a constellation of challenges and a constellation of risks” that demanded agile, flexible, pragmatic and resourceful service providers.

The challenges included having a large number of care recipients with varying cultural background, levels of need and mobility.

“Some of them, indeed a high proportion of them, are likely to have some degree of underlying chronic disease,” Ms Anderson said.

“Some older consumers may be unable to comply independently with basic personal hygiene. Some may live in circumstances where there is lots of foot traffic, or none at all.”

She advised all providers to check the Quality Standards – particularly those relating to risk management, personal and clinical care and putting the safety and wellbeing of the individual at the centre.

She advised providers to get know the circumstances of their clients well and ensure there are alternative options to provide support, such as neighbours, if their operations were disrupted or temporarily discontinued.

Providers needed to be able to scale up their response and be prepared for a worst case scenario.

“Anticipate the abnormal,” she said. “Prepare for it and be ready”.

Ms Anderson also stressed the need for good record keeping throughout the outbreak as well as clear messaging to staff and clients.

Ms Anderson said there may be a case for the suspension of non-essential services such as gardening and home maintenance.

However providers will still be required to deliver safe and quality essential services and they would be expected to “exercise clear-eyed judgement” where risk is attached to an adjustment, she said.

Employing family carers

Professor Chris Poulos Head of Research and Aged Care Clinical Services of HammondCare provided an overview of the organisation’s approach, which included a regularly monitored ‘pandemic’ email address to answer questions from staff, and a ‘COVID-19 Toolbox’ training kit, and ensuring all staff carry PPE in their cars.

HammondCare was looking at maximising staff availability, including asking workers to reassess leave time and consider ‘flexing up’ their hours of work.

Professor Poulos also said in the event of “extreme pressure” HammondCare would consider paying family carers to fill a gap.

“If there is extreme pressure it may be that we would look at employing family carers to provide personal care on a paid casual basis and looking at friends, and perhaps other members of the community who may have been displaced from their workplaces, undertaking other tasks within the home care space such as shopping on a paid casual basis,” he said.

Ramping up efforts

The aged care sector faced a ‘vast challenge’ in protecting Australia’s more than one million home care recipients as well as the home care work force from COVID-19, LASA said.

“While residential care can be secured and entrants carefully vetted to protect residents and staff, older people receiving home care within the community are highly vulnerable to the spread of the virus,” CEO Sean Rooney told Community Care Review.

Mr Rooney said home care providers were ramping up intensifying to protect clients and staff.

“The national webinar highlighted many concerns from providers that should help guide authorities to roll out strategies and support to minimise virus transmission,” he told CCR.

“The scale of the challenge is vast, with more than one million older Australians receiving care and assistance through the Home Care Packages scheme and the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

“We will continue working tirelessly with agencies and the government to ensure aged care in the home is a critical part of the COVID-19 response.”

Aged care minister Richard Colbeck told the webinar that the seminar came in response to a clear need for more information to the home care sector about responding to the coronavirus.

Guidelines prepared by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) for residential providers would be adapted for home care and released shortly, he said.

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10 Comments

  1. As a dedicated but UNDEREMPLOYED casual home care worker, how dare the government consider using students and Visa holders BEFORE considering giving their existing casual workers more hours OR how about they start paying overtime and finally these low paid workers can finally catch a break and pay their bills!!!

  2. RE: PPE
    We are a Home Care Provider based in Perth WA
    I contacted PHN local representative yesterday regarding where to order PPE for our community home care staff and was advised that at present that we cannot order anything as GP Practices, Pharmacies and Medical Centres are a priority.

    We have exhausted all online ordering suppliers – can you advise where we can get additional supplies from please?
    Thank you
    Annie

  3. I am in lockdown for 14 days from yesterday how do I get food in for myself two children and their dad who has an acquired brain injury
    Food delivery vans are no longer delivering we need help

  4. My dad is in dementia care at elourea gardens at Cherrybrook he has Parkinson’s disease I’m his daughter can I still visit him

  5. Hello
    We are a Home Care Provider based in Perth WA
    How do we make contact with the Rapid Response Team?
    Thank you
    Annie

  6. Sounds good, I’m glad you recognise the marathon responsibility CHSP providers are playing in this unusual time of preparing and adjusting for what is to come.
    Just hope you can get the PPE to providers ASAP. When can services expect to receive it? I am in rural NSW.
    I would also like to acknowledge the strength and courage our consumers are showing @ this time. My clients seem to be taking direction and information in their stride. No panic from them. They could teach us a thing or two about composure and calm.

  7. As a recipient of a Home Care Package I would just like to take this opportunity to say a very big THANK YOU to the care staff at all the service provider organisations who are working at a more than usually difficult time which is likely to go on for a while. In the main, these are an exceptional bunch of people who deserve a huge vote of thanks!

  8. Hello,

    I am wondering why aged care facility is not providing PPE in this devastating condition? cant a care worker use a mask in this time?? Do you mean when they get infected and contagious only they are allowed to wear a surgical mask?? what is the meaning when they are ill and and use of PPE afterwards?? care workers are closely working with each and every resident and there is no social distancing therefore we should assume everyone might be affected and care workers should be using PPE all the time during the work. can you please provide enough PPE for aged cared centres before the outbreak. there will be no use of these mask after outbreak. I always think prevention is better than cure. It is a pandemic disease and not a normal viral disease that has vaccine so please look after that. please treat this disease as pandemic not like other viral flu.

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