The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is checking aged care homes offer antiviral medications to aged care residents who contract COVID-19, the commissioner has told providers.

Anyone over the age of 70, who tests positive for COVID-19, is eligible for subsidised antiviral medication, regardless of whether they have any other risk factors, or symptoms. Aged care residents under 70 may also be eligible under the new rules.

Providers were advised on Monday that the standard for every aged care home is to offer antiviral treatments straight away to eligible residents who test positive. They were also encouraged to starting pre-assessing and seek consent from all residents now.

On Wednesday, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson wrote to aged care providers to emphasise the role of vaccinations and antiviral treatments in protecting older Australians and saving lives.

Janet Anderson

She said the commission was monitoring services’ compliance with infection control arrangements and the appropriate use of antiviral medications for any aged care residents who contract COVID-19.

“A slow or ineffective response to an outbreak places both residents and staff at increased risk of harm and is likely to result in regulatory action by the commission,” Ms Anderson said.

Ms Anderson also referred providers to last week’s clinical alert and winter plan for residential aged care providers, laucnhed by the commission and government respectively, for the steps that aged care providers must immediately take to minimise the risks presented by COVID-19.

These steps include:

  • maintaining and auditing infection prevention and control practices
  • maintaining up to date information on residents’ vaccination status and eligibility dates, and ensuring timely scheduling of boosters
  • paying close attention to screening and monitoring of staff and visitors
  • regularly checking staff and residents for clinical symptoms of COVID-19 infection
  • ensuring easy access to doctors for COVID-19 antiviral prescriptions, which are effective in reducing severe infection
  • checking that local pharmacies have immediate supplies of antiviral medications
  • confirming sufficient stock on hand of essential supplies including PPE and rapid antigen tests
  • staying up to date with public health requirements and information in your state or territory.

Ms Anderson said thorough preparation and ongoing vigilance were key to managing the risks of COVID-19 in aged care settings.

“The resilience and sustained attention to detail that aged care providers have demonstrated over the last two years will continue to serve people in aged care well, as the next wave of the coronavirus moves across the country and enters more aged care settings,” she said.

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