The Minister for Ageing has called for a review of the accreditation standards on infection control following a series of reports on gastro outbreaks in aged care facilities.
Justine Elliot has also proposed a new set of national guidelines on norovirus – a common source of gastroenteritis – along with a new gastro education kit.
A statement from the Minister’s office described the current standard on infection control (Expected outcome 4.7) as “very broad” and said that the review will focus on staff development and training around infection control.
The Minister has proposed new standards that will provide more detail about containing outbreaks and “good hand washing practices”.
“Infection control in nursing homes is a big task when one considers that residents are often frail, aged and vulnerable to infection,” she said.
“We can never wipe out infectious diseases but we must always look at ways to minimise risk.”
Aged Care Association Australia CEO, Rod Young said that while the industry had good preocedures in place, it was always committed to improvement.
“I think it’s beneficial for the industry if it can look at how things are done around infection control and see if there are any ways to do things better and reduce the incidence of infection control outbreaks in the future. That’s good for everybody.”
The proposed changes have come after NSW Public Health, the NSW Food Authority and Commonwealth Nursing Officers began conducting investigations at a Blue Mountains facility where ten people died following a suspected outbreak in late June.
News also emerged today that three facilities in NSW’s Hunter Valley had gone into lock down following outbreaks of gastroenteritis.
Information from the Department of Health and Ageing shows that in 2007, more than half of the 1825 reported gastro outbreaks in Australia were in nursing homes.
And 383 of this year’s 671 reported gastro incidents occurred in aged care facilities.
The department will discuss the infection control review and other possible changes to the standards at next month’s Ageing Consultative Committee.
Copies of the new gastro kit will be sent to all aged care facilities in October and the draft guidelines on norovirus are expected to be completed by the end of this year.