On 19 March 2020 we issued a survey to our subscribers asking about their readiness to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19 / coronavirus. The survey closed at the end of March 2020 and the final results are in. Here’s what we’ve found, plus a few free resources available for residential aged care managers and leaders (listed at the end of this article).
- Most respondents felt they had a good understanding of outbreak management, including responding to an outbreak of coronavirus / COVID-19, and felt they were at least adequately prepared to manage an outbreak.
- While all respondents had an Outbreak Management Plan, many would like to develop it further.
- Many respondents felt like they were “not prepared at all” to manage staffing problems arising from an outbreak.
- Almost all respondents had provided additional staff training, but about one third did not provide any competency assessment.
- The Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) were the most used resources for coronavirus / COVID-19 information.
Who Responded to the Survey?
The survey was anonymous, and respondents were from NSW, Victoria, Queensland and ACT. The vast majority of respondents described themselves as managers, and 95% work in residential aged care. Most respondents work in facilities with fewer than 100 beds, although there were a significant number of respondents who work in larger homes.
How well do you understand what you’re required to do in response to the COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic?
The picture was very positive here. On a scale from “No Understanding” to “Good Understanding”, most respondents reported having either a good (66%) or adequate (29%) understanding. Nobody reported having “no understanding.”
In preparation for a COVID-19 / Coronavirus outbreak have you provided any additional staff training and competency assessment?
Most respondents (62%) said they had provided additional training and competency assessment. The remaining proportion provided either just training (34%) or just competency assessment (4%). No respondents provided neither.
Please list what training and/or competency assessment you have provided (if any).
The most common topics listed by respondents here were:
- Infection control
- Handwashing/hand hygiene
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use
- Outbreak management
- COVID-19 awareness (including myth busting).
Many respondents reported that this training was delivered via online webinars or videos such as those provided by the Department of Health.
Please provide the names of any ‘best’ training or information resources that you would recommend to other ACE readers.
Common answers were:
- World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Department of Health.
Several respondents noted that they only used “in house” sources.
Where do you get your information about the COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic? Select all that apply.
Almost all respondents (91%) reported sourcing information from the Commonwealth Department of Health. A significant majority (75%) also reported sourcing information from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC).
Other common sources of information were:
- Aged Care peak and representative bodies (e.g. ACSA, LASA)
- Local Public Health Unit (PHU)
- State/Territory Department of Health
- World Health Organisation (WHO)
Some respondents (about 37%) reported sourcing information from health professionals (e.g. GPs, pharmacists) and about 30% said they relied on the general media. Very few respondents reported sourcing information from staff, either within their own home or from other homes.
In our free text option, one respondent said they got their information “…from too many sources. It’s exhausting.”
How prepared are you to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 / Coronavirus at your facility?
The picture here was fairly positive. This is a rough percentage breakdown of how the respondents answered:
Not prepared at all – 0%
Somewhat prepared – 20%
Adequately prepared – 54%
Well prepared – 26%
How prepared are you to manage staffing problems in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 / Coronavirus at your facility?
The picture here was not quite so positive:
Not prepared at all – 5%
Somewhat prepared – 48%
Adequately prepared – 39%
Well prepared – 7%
Do you have a current COVID-19 / Coronavirus Outbreak Management Plan in place?
Most respondents were either “confident” with their plan (48%) or had a plan in place but would like to develop it further (34%). A smaller group (18%) were still developing a plan.
What are the main ways you communicate with residents and their representatives about COVID-19 / Coronavirus? Select all that apply.
Almost all respondents reported using these three means to communicate with residents and their representatives:
- Online (personal) – e.g. email
- Hardcopy (general) – e.g. posters, community noticeboards
- Phone (talking)
Many respondents (about 60%) also reported using:
- Hardcopy (personal) – e.g. letters
- Face-to-face (personal) – e.g. conversation with individual residents or small groups
- Face-to-face (general) – e.g. meeting with groups of residents and/or representatives
What are the main ways you communicate with staff about COVID19 / Coronavirus and their roles and responsibilities? Select all that apply
The three most used means of communicating with staff were:
- Hardcopy (general) – e.g. posters, community noticeboards (89%)
- Face-to-face (general) – e.g. staff meetings (80%)
- Face-to-face (personal) – e.g. conversation with individual staff or small groups (75%).
The use of personal emails was also quite common. Phone – texting and talking – was the least-used method of communicating with staff.
We want to help! In regard to COVID-19/Coronavirus, please let us know which topics you’d like Aged Care Essentials (ACE) to address and information you’d like us to provide. Select all that apply.
For this question we provided a list of topics and a free text option. From our list, no single topic stood out as being of most interest to a large majority of respondents. Rather, about 50% of respondents answered “yes I’m interested in this” to almost every topic. These topics were:
- Best sources of information and advice in a Pandemic (COVID-19 / Coronavirus)
- Communication strategies during a Pandemic
- Infection prevention and control policies and procedures
- Infection prevention and control training
- Managing ACQSC compliance and assessments
- Outbreak Management Plans
- Outbreak management and isolation procedures
- Risk management
- Workforce management
Three respondents used the free text option to suggest topics that weren’t on our list. These suggestions were:
- Lack of PPE supplies
- Management of residents diagnosed with COVID-19
- Who pays for 14-day isolation of staff when the criteria are met?
Any other comments
Comments touched on a range of topics, with the common theme being a lack of resources to cope with this unprecedented situation, including:
- Human resources
- Infection Control resources (e.g. PPE, sanitizing products etc.)
- Hospital resources
Some comments that stuck out:
- “My greatest concern is as things escalate, how are we going to gain access to the things we need like sanitation products, as we are very remote and it sometimes feels like we are at the end of the line when it comes to these things. I guess everyone is thinking the same thing.”
- “How is it possible that in a country like Australia there is insufficient supply of mask, gowns, face shields, hand sanitisers, now that it is most needed? Is it the lack of planning? Panic buying?”
- “There is so much coming at us it’s hard to keep up I am wondering how we will manage mandatory influenza vaccines from all families.”
- “I believe that the next 6 months is going to be very challenging for aged care providers, and the concern is will our residents be able to access hospital care when they need it as the hospital system will not be able to keep up?”
- “The impact on staffing and being able to access adequate numbers of staff is a real concern. And there is the ongoing threat of influenza and community acquired gastro.”
Help from Aged Care Essentials (ACE)
The ACE editorial team will use feedback from the “We want to help” question above for future articles.
Meanwhile, here are three resources available right now to support residential aged care managers and leaders:
- Resources list – in our 7 April 2020 edition, Ace published the Coronavirus / COVID-19: Simple List of Resources for Aged Care Providers
- Briefing Paper: “Responding to COVID-19 for Aged Care” – An outbreak management plan is key to ensuring the residents in your home are protected. This briefing paper outlines four key elements to include in your Home’s outbreak management plan.
- Free Webinar: Understanding the Gaps in Infection Control Plans that can put Residential Aged Care Facilities at Risk - Learn how your COVID-19 infection prevention control systems – and outbreak management plan – relate to other key areas of operational risk and compliance, which of these interrelated areas are most often missed by residential aged care facilities, what the potential risks and consequences are and what you can do about it.