A group of 13 provider peak bodies and consumer advocacy organisations have released a co-developed industry code outlining provider and visitor rights and responsibilities for aged facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ‘Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19’ creates a nationally consistent approach that ensures residents can receive visitors while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19.
It includes the providers’ responsibility to facilitate safe in-person visits and connections in other ways between residents and their loved ones, including using technology, windows and balconies.
It also highlights that providers will increase communication when they need to limit the number of in-person visits or replace them with other ways to connect in order to minimise the introduction of the virus into a facility.
The code comes after many aged care facilities implemented stronger restrictions than those recommended by National Cabinet and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, thousands of complaints from angry relatives and a direction to comply from the Prime Minister (read more here).
While Australia is faring far better than many countries overseas, 63 aged care residents have tested positive for COVID-19 to date, and 26 residents have died from the virus to date, which is more than a quarter of the 97 COVID-19 deaths nationally.
Most of the aged care deaths have occurred at Anglicare Sydney’s Newmarch House in western Sydney, where 16 residents have died to date.
They are among a cluster of 69 cases of 32 staff and 37 residents linked to the facility, which as appointed an independent adviser as directed by the quality regulator (read more here).
The code, which was finalised following public consultation with consumers and providers, follows a human rights approach to care that aims to protect and respect aged care residents and their visitors (read more here).
It acknowledges the work providers and staff are doing to keep residents and staff safe during the pandemic and includes the respective rights and responsibilities of providers, residents and visitors.
For their part, visitors will need to undergo screeningand show proof of an Influenza vaccination for the 2020 season before entering the facility.
The code will be reviewed on 29 May to address implementation issues and ensure it responds to concerns.
Aged & Community Services chief executive officer Patricia Sparrow said the code and the review were both essential.
“We need to monitor this closely because we can’t afford to get complacent. The price paid by older people in aged care will be too high,” Ms Sparrow said.
Minister for Aged Care Australians Richard Colbeck said the guidelines struck the important balance of ensuring the health of residents and social connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It lays out a clear definition of the responsibilities of providers and visitors as they navigate this extraordinary health crisis,” he said.
The code has been developed and endorsed by:
- Aged & Community Services Australia
- Aged Care Guild
- Anglicare Australia
- Baptist Care Australia
- Catholic Health Australia
- Leading Age Services Australia
- UnitingCare Australia
- Carers Australia
- Council on the Ageing Australia
- Dementia Australia
- Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia
- National Seniors Australia
- Older Persons Advocacy Network
Access the code here.
Aged care providers and other industry stakeholders can email concerns and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org while consumers should email their feedback to AgedCareVisitorsCode@cota.org.au.