On 19 June 2020, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) updated its advice on residential aged care entry restrictions. In this article we explain who the AHPPC is, what they have advised and what this means for aged care providers.
- The AHPPC is a committee who advises Australian departments of health about health issues, including residential aged care entry restrictions.
- On 19 June 2020, the AHPPC advised that certain residential aged care entry restrictions should be eased.
- As at 22 June 2020, the AHPPC advice is not law, but it may soon become law.
Who is the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)?
According to the Department of Health website, the AHPPC “is the key decision making committee for health emergencies. It is comprised of all state and territory Chief Health Officers and is chaired by the Australian Chief Medical Officer.” The purpose of the AHPPC is to advise the various Australian Health Ministers on health protection matters and national healthcare priorities.
Are aged care providers legally obliged to follow AHPPC advice?
No. AHPPC advice is not law, so aged care providers are not legally obliged to follow it. However, if the AHPPC advice becomes law, providers will have to follow it.
Has the latest AHPPC advice on entry restrictions become law?
As at 22 June 2020, no.
The laws on residential aged care entry restrictions are set out in the Aged Care Directions issued by each of the state and territory departments of health. What happens in practice is that the various Health Ministers take advice from the AHPPC and then, if they feel it’s appropriate, update the Aged Care Directions. If this happens, the AHPPC advice effectively becomes a law that aged care providers must follow.
As at 22 June 2020, the states and territories have not updated their Directions to take account of the latest advice from the AHPPC, so the latest AHPPC advice is not yet law. But aged care providers should note that some state and territory departments of health will probably update their Directions soon to adopt some or all of the AHPPC advice. In light of this, providers should monitor the Directions via the links below or check into the ACE Weekly Wrap for the latest updates.
Weblinks to Aged Care Directions
What are the key changes recommended by the AHPPC?
The AHPPC recommends that current visitor control measures be changed so that:
- children of all ages be permitted to visit residents
- service providers such as hairdressers, diversional therapists and allied health professionals be permitted to enter residential aged care facilities (as long as these services cannot be provided through other models of care)
- there are no limits on the number of hours a spouse or close relative can spend with a resident
- residents be permitted to leave the facility to attend small family gatherings.
The AHPPC recommends that these restrictions should not be changed and should continue:
- excursions for groups of residents should not be permitted
- only visitors and staff who have been vaccinated against influenza should enter an aged care facility
- facilities should continue to undertake health symptom screening of all people entering the facility
- facilities should return to a higher level of protection, such as restricting visits, if there are recent cases of COVID-19 acquired in the local vicinity of the facility.
For more information on entry restrictions in residential aged care homes, see our previous articles Vaccination Entry Restrictions in Aged Care: What you Need to Know and Coronavirus Visitor Control in Aged Care: Check Your Readiness. You can read the full AHPCC update here.