Residential aged care facilities will be required to increase restrictions on visitors for the next six months as the government ramps up measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that visits will have to be short and limited to a maximum of two people at one time during the day.

Only family and close friends or professional service workers will be allowed into the centre and visits must take place in a resident’s room, outside, or  in an area designated by the facility.

Visitors and staff who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days, who have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, have symptoms of fever or respiratory infection or who haven’t been vaccinated against the flu after May 1 will be banned.

Group visits, school groups and gatherings including social visits or entertainment have also been ruled out.

Children under 16 years will only be able to visit “by exception”.

“It’s about protecting the residents at the end of the day,” the prime minister told a media conference in Canberra.

 

Scott Morrison addresses a press conference in Canberra on March 18 2020.

 

End of life situations

Mr Morrison said individual aged care facilities will have the discretion to put in place “very strict arrangements” so people can visit loved ones who are at the end of their lives.

“Those rules will have to be done on a facility by facility basis and need to confirm with general principals around social distancing,” he said.

“We all know how distressing those situations can be, so the aged care facilities will be asked to put in place sensible arrangements to facilitate those type of visits on a compassionate basis.”

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said while the nation would need to protect it’s aged population for “the long haul, for six months”, older Australians should not be denied access to family members.

“But we’ve got to make sure those interactions are safe, very limited and with good social distancing,” Professor Murphy said.

A balancing act

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO Pat Sparrow said ACSA would take the advice of health authorities and acknowledged there was clearly a need to take stronger measures.

Patricia Sparrow

However she said ACSA was also mindful of the need to balance prevention with compassion and emotional care.

“Mental and spiritual health is just as important and providers know better than anyone that getting that balance right is difficult but important,” Ms Sparrow said.

“We wouldn’t be taking these measures unless they were absolutely necessary, and providers will be doing everything they can to enforce them.”

Ms Sparrow said ACSA was continuing to work with the government on issues that still needed attention including the supply of protective equipment.

Leading Age Services Australia also endorsed the new restrictions.

“The sector sees today’s announcement by the Prime Minister as a logical and essential escalation of the protections aged care providers have already put in place,” CEO Sean Rooney said.

Meanwhile, CheckedIn Care said on Wednesday it had re-configured it Connect App platform to enable a COVID-19 App to be made available to Australian Aged Care Providers free of charge.

The App provides access to information, notifications and updates, connectivity with familes and access to GPs and medical experts.

More information about the COVID-19 App is available via this email.

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11 Comments

  1. I am devastated as the aged care my Mum is has refused any access by anyone since last Friday – no family, hairdresser, podiatrist, or doctors
    I think they shouldn’t be allowed to have even stricter requirements than those outlined by the health department . My mother just lost her husband after 64 years of marriage – and I just lost my Dad, now they have taken away my Mum too.

  2. Is the restrictions to aged care visits 2 visitors at one time OR per day? We have a resident who can have between 4-7 visits per day from friends and family and 1 of them come straight from the gym.

  3. Given that aged care homes are now deciding to not allow any residents visitors at all, which they may say is their risk assessment, but that assessment goes against the highest advice/risk assessment we have in this country (the Government & its chief medial officer). Can you advise me that if something (or anything) happens to my mother whilst I am not allowed in to care for her what will be my legal avenues of compensation for the aged providers alleged negligence

  4. Morrison says professional service workers are still entitled to enter.
    I own a community aged care service, because of my Mothers dementia, the facility cant meet her needs with respect to physio exercises.
    I pay my staff to go in twice daily for physio, hydration, stimulation and socialisation. Facility has put a stop to all this, including any activities for residents. I fail to see how that can be in the best interest of the resident.
    No facility can manage their own staff in regard to knowing who they have come in contact with, going from room to room, yet my 2 staff go to one room only and actually take the resident outside. I cant see how these 2 service workers can inflict a higher risk than their own staff.
    We live in an area where there is 1 confirmed case only. Been in self isolation immediately.
    The unnecessary panic is frustrating.

  5. And here’s why we need such draconian measures….me, me, me, me, me.
    But what about….me?

    Seriously folks, stop individualising your (relatively) minor inconveniences and take a broader view.

    Ignorant providers who implement knee-jerk policies in misguided attempts to show they’re doing something (anything) only add to the problem.

    Checking staff temperatures at start of shift? Unless you continue to monitor them regularly throughout the day, what’s the point? (hourly? every 5 minutes? continuous?)

    Logic and rational behaviour please.

    Our focus must be on effective, evidence-based actions and not just doing things you think will impress the ACQSC

  6. I have just heard from two extremely distressed partners of residents in a Southern Cross Care facility that they are not allowed visit at all – total lock down. No warning, no opportunity to visit their loved ones to explain what is happening and no exceptions. Whilst they are fully aware of the need to protect the vulnerable this is over and above the guidelines the government health authorities have deemed necessary. In the case of these two residents their wives have visited almost daily and provided care support for the past 15 months and this seems overly harsh.What options and recourse might they have to at least be able to visit their husbands and explain what is happening? It is simply cruel, unnecessary and in excess of what the Chief Medical Officers and Health experts have recommended.

  7. Baptistcare have stopped all visitors and this is very distressing. How are they allowed to do this? Why arent they following the recommendations?

  8. OUR ELDERS are not criminals and ought not to be LOCKED away without visiting rights for those who love and care for them and who also observe and watch over the care provided for them.Sometimes it is their family or friends who can observe a medical issue that may require attention before the health care workers employed in the facilities,the facilities are deregulated regarding ratios of carers to residents,the carers are not nurses and when the nurse incharge of the carers may be made aware of issues,they often appear to have little expertize and experience in their field.Residents need outside eyes and hearts to aid in their wellbeing and their emotional care,residents also may need to see that their loved ones are ok in this stressful time also.Isolation is also a well documented form of toture.National Guidelines ought to be followed rather than draconian authoritarian ageist dictims.

  9. Cruel to the aged population …….
    So my mother coming up for her non event 80th birthday 😢 doesn’t understand why she cannot see my dad everyday after 62yrs together and she is reliant on him to be her advocate for her medication to be given on time ! She feels like she has been punished and isn’t allowed to see any of her family and has no real friends in the aged care home as 98% have dementia!

    And then they have forgotten about the loved one at home lonely all by themselves and depressed and feeling guilty for putting their husband/wife into care so not eating properly either and no one to care for them!
    My father 87 pointed out to me where he lives no neighbours have checked on him because most are holiday homes and 9 were empty this week!

    So think about both sides of this situation

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