Aged care workers in Victoria’s lockdown zones must wear surgical masks, the Federal Government has announced as Melbourne facilities see a surge in the number of residents testing positive.

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck and Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced the directive yesterday following recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

They also announced an additional 4 million masks will be made available for Victorian residential and home aged care providers in the areas with restrictions including greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shires.

The directive comes as Victoria sees at least 33 new cases of COVID-19 among aged care residents including one death in the last seven days.

That includes 13 residents at Estia Health’s Adeer aged care facility.

It brings the national total of residents testing positive to COVID to 104, of whom 32 have died, according to government figures as of Tuesday.  

Meanwhile, Prestons Lodge residential aged care facility in south-west Sydney is in lockdown after a male visited a relative while infectious, NSW Health Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a press conference on Tuesday.

Richard Colbeck

Ministers Colbeck and Hunt said personal protective equipment would help prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to aged care residents and protect staff.

“This will immediately assist around 449 residential aged care facilities and 425 home care providers, with a total of 60,427 aged care recipients in these services,” Mr Colbeck and Mr Hunt said in a joint statement.

Aged care infections rising quickly

The number of aged care facilities affected by COVID has shot up since last Thursday when, as reported by AAA, Victoria’s Department of Health had reported 12 recent positive cases among staff (11) and residents at 11 facilities (read more here).

Vic Health said on Monday and Tuesday that current cases linked to outbreaks include:

  • 28 cases linked to Menarock Life Aged Care’s facility in Essendon
  • 13 cases linked to Estia Health Aged Care in Ardeer
  • 13 cases linked to Allity’s Glendale Aged Care’s facility in Werribee
  • 2 cases linked to Japara Central Park Aged Care in Windsor.

Mr Colbeck said aged care staff and residents from facilities in the affected areas would undergo further targeted testing.

He said more than 1.35 million items of PPE had already been supplied to Victorian aged care services since late February.

A large deployment of up to 250,000 surgical masks, 250,000 gowns, 250,000 face shields or goggles and supplies of hand sanitiser is underway for aged care services in the Victorian hotspots.

“With the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, there has been a particular emphasis on ensuring additional PPE has been sent to Victoria to ensure aged care workers in that state have access to such equipment,” Mr Colbeck said.

He said other measures to assist Victorian aged care facilities include:

  • deployment of clinical first responders to facilities where an outbreak has been identified
  • immediate access to emergency response teams if there is a significant outbreak
  • access to a surge workforce to help providers critical skills because of infection or staff having to self-isolate.

The Aged Care Quality Safety Commission is continuing to conduct site visits where concerns are raised including in the Melbourne metropolitan area.

Aged care providers in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire with a potential or confirmed COVID-19 outbreak can request surgical masks for workers and other PPE, including gloves and gowns to aged care services by emailing AgedCareCOVIDPPE@health.gov.au.

This story was updated on Tuesday evening

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