Aged care facilities have been advised to restrict visitor access to help protect residents from coronavirus. 

Providers are responding by tightening up visitor screening and access practices while many are still accepting respite residents.

Residential aged care providers are now encouraged to limit visits, Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said this week citing the national guidelines released on Friday to prevent and control coronavirus in residential care.

Richard Colbeck

The guidelines from the Communicable Disease Network of Australia include advice on limiting family and friend visits to residential care centres.

“Given the risks to older Australians from COVID 19, particularly those with chronic disease and other frailties, we now recommend that residential aged care providers restrict visitor access,” Minister Colbeck said.

The advice follows a third death of a resident with coronavirus from BaptistCare NSW & ACT’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Sydney.

There have been 10 confirmed cases of Coronavirus including six residents and four employees at the facility, the organisation said in a statement on Sunday.  

Currently the visitor limit is up to the discretion of facility management in conjunction with families, a spokesperson told Australian Ageing Agenda

The CDNA is developing more detailed guidance regarding visitor access, the management of non-compliant residents and physical distancing in conjunction with the aged care peak bodies.

This will be available this week, the spokesperson said.

National provider Regis Aged Care is among organisations advertising visitor restrictions and enhanced screening measures. 

Facilities operating respite

AAA has sought a response from Mr Colbeck and the Department of Health regarding policies or restrictions for respite residents.

Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow some providers were continuing to take on temporary residents while ramping up all screening efforts. 

Pat Sparrow

“Many providers are still accepting scheduled respite visits,” Ms Sparrow told AAA.

“In addition, many providers are enacting increased screening across the board for all visitors and new arrivals. For example, temperature checks and questioning regarding possible symptoms and travel.

“There have been varied levels of restrictions depending on the nature and risk level of a facility. As more advice and directives come from government providers will work to implement these quickly,” she said. 

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said it was important that aged care providers followed the CDNA guidelines to minimise the risk of transmitting coronavirus to residents and staff. 

Sean Rooney

“To continue respite care, they may have to implement special protocols to accept people,” Mr Rooney told AAA.

Both LASA and ACSA said they were working closely with the government and the Department of Health to ensure the protection of aged care residents and staff.

Ms Sparrow said they are working on a range of issues including the supply of protective equipment to ensure providers have the support they need to protect residents and staff.

Update

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new restrictions on Wednesday after this story was published. Read our covereage here:

Visitor restrictions ramped up for aged care facilities

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