The aged care regulator has made almost 60 surprise checks on Victorian aged care homes to assess infection control and protective wear practices this month, the centre leading the aged care response in the state has announced.  

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is continuing to expand it operations, which include hundreds of defence force personnel and health professionals from around the country, it announced in an operational update on Wednesday.

The centre, a joint commonwealth and state initiative with over 60 staff from 20 government agencies launched in late July, is focused on rapidly responding to known outbreaks and preventing new infections in COVID-free facilities.

There are now 2,050 active cases relating to aged care facilities and 12 new deaths linked to aged care in the previous 24 hours, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told Wednesday’s press conference.

There are 120 Victorian facilities affected including 10 aged care homes linked to 100 or more cases with Epping Gardens Aged Care topping the list with 205 cases.

Between 7 July and 18 August, 1,478 Victorian aged care residents have tested positive to COVID-19, of whom 9 have recovered and 232 have died, Federal Government data shows.

In its operational update, the response centre said the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has completed 59 unannounced checks of residential aged care homes in Victoria since 3 August to assess personal protective equipment usage and infection control practices.

Australian Ageing Agenda has sought a response from the quality and safety commission about the outcomes of these surprise checks, which it announced in July in response to the growing number of outbreaks.

Elsewhere the response centre said the team of Australian Defence Force personnel would reach 170 by the end of the week providing on the ground medical support, cross-functional intelligence and planning and a mass prevention and infection control effort in COVID-free facilities.

To date, the Australian Medical Assistance Teams with 25 national personnel have completed 113 visits to 62 facilities, with another six visits scheduled today and Western Health has provided assistance in prevention at 20 facilities.

Additional workers

Funded surge workforce measures to date include:

  • 17,073 shifts filled by Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association staff
  • 2,304 shifts filled by Healthcare Australia staff
  • 833 shifts filled by 74 Mable contractors
  • 413 roles filled by Aspen Medical staff including clinical first responder deployments.

Other additional workers include:

  • 25 personnel across three teams, with an additional team of six personnel expected to arrive later in the week, from the South Australian and Western Australian state governments
  •  9 National Aged Care Emergency Response teams made up of 57 personnel from Queensland, SA and WA to fill nursing, personal care and cleaning roles.

The response centre has partnered with aviation industry members including Qantas to develop the aged care assistant role launched in mid-April by Leading Age Services Australia, Altura Learning and the DASH Group.

A pilot involving 10 participants will commence training this week, and if successful, up to 150 attendants are to be employed.

Communication measures

The VACRC has introduced a web-based incident management system to help the response centre track and measure critical tasks, such as PPE provision and waste management, which allows open communication between case managers, aged care providers, public health units and response teams .

The response centre has supported eight aged care facilities in direct communications with families and primary contacts of residents including via 948 outbound calls, and 734 inbound calls since 23 July 2020.

“The response centre is fully engaged with aged care facilities that have cases of COVID-19 and need direct support in PPE, infection control, staffing, general management, and clinical and care support,” the update said.

Its priorities are focused on continuity of care for residents, safety and wellbeing of staff and increased communication with families and staff.

Largest aged care outbreaks

As of Wednesday, the largest outbreaks in Victorian aged care facilities are:

  • 205 cases linked to Epping Gardens Aged Care in Epping
  • 191 linked to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner
  • 157 cases linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Ardeer
  • 147 cases linked to BaptCare Wyndham Lodge Community in Werribee
  • 131 cases linked to Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth
  • 111 cases linked to Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North
  • 110 cases linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Heidelberg
  • 108 cases linked to Cumberland Manor Aged Care Facility in Sunshine
  • 103 cases linked to Twin Parks Aged Care in Reservoir
  • 100 cases linked to Japara Goonawarra in Sunbury.

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