The federal health department is bringing experts and aged care stakeholders together in Canberra today to provide information on the coronavirus and help providers prepare for an outbreak.

The forum will bring together around 70 representatives from across the aged care sector including providers, peak bodies, workforce, consumers, state and territory governments and professional bodies to discuss key issues including infection control and epidemic planning.

As with the flu, the coronavirus or COVID-19 particularly affects the elderly, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said.

“To support the aged care sector, the Department of Health will host a forum on 6 March to inform the aged care sector about COVID-19 and assist its preparations for the possibility of cases,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Aged care provider attendees will include representatives from peak bodies Aged and Community Services Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, the Aged Care Guild, UnitingCare, Catholic Health Australia and a number of service providers.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck will also attend and address the forum.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson and chair of the Communicable Diseases Network Dr Sonya Bennett are among those who will provide key briefings.

BaptistCare NSW & ACT chief executive officer Ross Low will also brief attendees.

As of Friday morning, five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed among one staff member and four residents of BaptistCare Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park (read more here).

Discussions at the forum are expected to focus on:

  • infection control
  • quality and safety requirements
  • epidemic planning
  • support and guidance

The forum, which will be closed to the media, is taking place 12.30pm – 3.00pm.

Basic hygiene still key

Meanwhile the Department of Health is advising providers to take note of the coronavirus factsheet for residential aged care, which highlights hand, sneeze and cough hygiene as the best defence against most viruses.

It recommends:

  • washing hands frequently with soap and water before and after eating and toileting
  • covering coughs and sneezes, disposing of tissues, and using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • avoiding contact with others when unwell.

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