The Commonwealth Government has commenced a COVID-19 rapid antigen pilot this week starting with Uniting NSW ACT’s aged care home in Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west.
Aged care homes in greater Sydney will be able apply to take part in the pilot, which will be progressively rolled out to up to 50 homes over the next four weeks.
The program aims to use rapid antigen tests that deliver a result in 15 minutes to screen aged care employees and visitors to provide reassurance to employees, managers, residents and families.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt, who announced the program on Sunday, said the Government was looking at innovations such as rapid antigen tests to provide an additional layer of protection on top of infection control training and vaccinations for aged care residents.
“One of the key findings of this trial was that it gave workers more confidence that they were safe to come to work and were not putting themselves, their fellow workers and the residents at risk,” Mr Hunt said.
Health crisis emergency management and infection control specialist Respond Global is leading the commonwealth’s pilot, which began on Monday at Uniting Bankstown.
Respond Global will provide all participating residential aged care facilities training and protocols in using the tests and recording the results.
Pharmaceuticals and diagnostics company Roche will initially supply the rapid antigen tests following a tender process and three more suppliers expected to join as the program expands.
Anyone who tests positive will be required to also have the standard polymerase chain reaction, or PCR test, for COVID-19.
The pilot aims to look at the role of rapid antigen testing in managing COVID-19 in Australia, the Department of Health said.
“The current program will run for four weeks with a formal evaluation that will provide insight into ongoing use of [rapid antigen test] as part of a broader risk control process,” a spokesperson from the health department n told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“Aged care providers can nominate their interest to participate in the pilot and will be considered if they meet the pilot criteria.”
The Department of Health told AAA on Monday further information about the rapid antigen testing pilot will be made available on its website shortly. In the meantime providers can email [email protected] to express their interest in participating in the pilot.
Main image: Uniting NSW ACT Bankstown