What ACE Readers had to Say: The Aged Care Quality Standards One Year On

Last week CompliSpace released the Aged Care Impact Report – One Year On. The Report revealed that the burden of adjusting to the new Aged Care Quality Standards and also coping with a once in 100-year pandemic are straining the aged care sector, putting staff retention at risk and pointing to reduced capacity to care for residents.

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Aged Care Providers’ Readiness for COVID-19 / Coronavirus: Results from Our Recent Survey

On 19 March 2020 we issued a survey to our subscribers asking about their readiness to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19/coronavirus. We will keep this survey open a while longer in case you haven’t had a chance to respond (click here to access the survey). Meanwhile, here are the preliminary results.

 

Key Results

  • Most respondents have a good understanding of what they need to do in response to an outbreak of coronavirus / COVID-19.
  • All respondents have provided additional staff training to prepare for a potential outbreak, but many respondents have not provided any competency assessment.
  • The most common sources of coronavirus / COVID-19 information for respondents are the Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC).
  • Most respondents feel at least “adequately prepared” to manage an outbreak.
  • Most respondents feel only “somewhat prepared” or “not prepared at all” to manage staffing problems arising from an outbreak.
  • All respondents have an outbreak management plan in place, but many would “like to develop the plan further.”

A full report will be released in early April. 

Who Responded to the Survey?

The survey was anonymous, and we have so far had over 50 responses from subscribers in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. The vast majority of respondents described themselves as managers working 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, with most respondents (63 per cent) reporting they had a “good understanding” (the highest level of understanding in the options we provided). Of the remaining respondents, almost all of them reported having an “adequate 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 (65 per cent) said they had provided additional training and competency assessment. About 32 per cent said they had provided training but no assessment.

 

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:

  • Altura
  • 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 (89 per cent) reported sourcing information from the Department of Health. A significant majority (74 per cent) 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 per cent) reported sourcing information from health professionals (e.g. GPs, pharmacists) and about 30 per cent 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 COVID19 / 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 percent
  • Somewhat prepared – 20 per cent
  • Adequately prepared – 54 per cent
  • Well prepared – 26 per cent

 

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 – 7 percent
  • Somewhat prepared – 50 per cent
  • Adequately prepared – 36 per cent
  • Well prepared – 7 per cent

 

Do you have a current COVID-19 / Coronavirus Outbreak Management Plan in place?

Most respondents were either “confident” with their plan (48 per cent) or had a plan in place but would like to develop it further (35 per cent).

 

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 per cent) 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

Almost 90 per cent of respondents reported using these two means to communicate with staff:

  • Hardcopy (general) – e.g. posters, community noticeboards
  • Face-to-face (general) – e.g. staff meetings

The next most common means (used by 74 per cent of respondents) was “Face-to-face (personal) – e.g. conversation with individual staff or small groups.” The use of personal emails was also quite common.

 

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 particular interest to a large majority of respondents. Rather, about 50 per cent 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 no single common thread between them other than the difficulties now arising from this unprecedented situation. Here are some of the comments:

  • “We need more PPE supplies such as gowns and masks and goggles.”
  • “We are really short of workforce and don’t know how to plan for it.”
  • “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.”

 

Have Your Say and the Full Report

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far – your input will inform future ACE articles, helping to keep them relevant and grounded in the real experiences of aged care providers.

To those who haven’t yet had a chance to complete the survey, we are keen to hear from you. The survey is completely anonymous, and you can access it here:

Take Anonymous Survey

The full report will be available in early April.

Mark Bryan
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Mark Bryan
Mark is a Legal Research Consultant at CompliSpace and the editor for ACE. Mark has worked as a Legal Policy Officer for the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and the NSW Department of Justice. He also spent three years as lead editor for the private sessions narratives team at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Arts/Law from the Australian National University with First Class Honours in Law, a Graduate Diploma in Writing from UTS and a Graduate Certificate in Film Directing from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

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