Rapid antigen testing has helped a Victorian aged care provider prevent three potential COVID-19 outbreaks in the program’s first month of operations.
TLC Healthcare mandated rapid antigen testing on 9 September for all staff, visitors and contractors entering their 11 residential aged care homes.
TLC Healthcare CEO Lou Pascuzzi said three people have tested positive for COVID-19 using the rapid antigen test and had that confirmed via a subsequent polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test.
“All three people that returned positive tests were asymptomatic and not aware that they had contracted COVID-19. Our rapid antigen testing program has prevented what could have resulted in three COVID-19 outbreaks,” Mr Pascuzzi told Australian Ageing Agenda on Friday.
Rapid antigen testing is an invaluable tool for minimising the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak, he said.
“It will allow TLC to minimise lockdowns, promoting increased levels of safe access for family members to residents and a positive mental health influence on community,” Mr Pascuzzi said.
Feedback from residents and staff has been “overwhelmingly positive,” he said.
Mr Pascuzzi said all aged care providers should look at mandating rapid antigen testing.
“I believe that rapid antigen testing will become a requirement for allowing visitors into Australian residential aged care homes, so now is the time to prepare,” he said.
He suggests aged care providers visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration website for details of the approved rapid antigen tests and contact the public health unit for advice on data collection and reporting requirements.
“I also recommend establishing a dedicated working committee to ensure the effective rollout and management of the initiative,” Mr Pascuzzi said.
Brightwater trials rapid tests
Meanwhile in Western Australia, aged care provider Brightwater Care Group conducted a trial of rapid antigen tests to determine its operational feasibility and acceptability.
The trial, which commenced in March involved 41 aged care staff and a COVID-19 free environment.
It found that the majority of staff strongly agreed that rapid antigen testing would provide a valuable screening tool in the event of an outbreak (82 per cent) and that regular screening would benefit the facility (80 per cent).
The trial also found no false positive or false negative results.
Brightwater Care Group CEO Jennifer Lawrence said trial was about protecting residents and staff.
“We knew that if the rapid antigen tests were accurate, they would potentially become a useful tool for screening staff, residents and visitors should we ever need,” Ms Lawrence told AAA.
Most staff participating in the said they would be happy to participate in regular screening (68 per cent) and felt they would be supported well if they tested positive result (79 per cent), the trial study found.
However some staff did not understand the point of testing asymptomatic staff if there was no community transmission, while others recognised the importance of it, Ms Lawrence said.
“It was important to determine acceptability, such as the barriers and hesitancy to testing in a COVID-free environment that is not influenced by fear related to an outbreak,” she said.
Brightwater supports rapid antigen testing, Ms Lawrence said.
“The test will be an invaluable screening tool in the event of community transmission in Western Australia. We are hoping to be able to use it to quickly test staff, residents and visitors should we ever need to,” she said.
Brightwater Care Group has expanded the trial to test symptomatic residents for both COVID-19 and influenza with results expected in the coming months.
Main image: TLC Healthcare’s rapid antigen testing van
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