Can Residential Aged Care Providers Insist That Staff Receive COVID-19 Vaccinations?

The Department of Health maintains that “vaccination of aged care residents and those who care for them is the most effective protection against COVID-19.” However, as the media has reported, the vaccine rollout to aged care staff has not been as efficient as promised and many aged care workers remain unvaccinated.

Read Now

Weekly Wrap: 02 March 2021

All Posts

Weekly Wrap: 02 March 2021

Aged care news highlights from the week ending 02 March 2021, aggregated by CompliSpace.

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the aged care sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.


Aged Care Royal Commission 

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety final report released by federal government

According to ABC News, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the aged care royal commission was "the inquiry we needed to have" as its final report is handed down at the end of what he called a "harrowing process".

 

Government pledges $452m to overhaul aged care sector following damning royal commission

According to ABC News, the federal government will spend almost half a billion dollars on immediate measures to overhaul the aged care sector following the release of a damning royal commission report.

 

Four key takeaways from the aged care royal commission's final report

According to ABC News, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's final report has laid out an extensive plan to overhaul Australia's aged care system. Here are our top four takeaways from this landmark report:

  • Australia needs a rights-based aged care system
  • The system needs stronger governance
  • We need to improve workforce conditions and capability
  • A better system will cost more

 

What the split between royal commissioners means for the future of aged care

According to ABC News, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was supposed to deliver a pathway to better care for older Australians. But that path just got a little more bumpy. We knew there was some division between the two commissioners. The final report, released on Monday, shows just how deep that division goes.

 

Royal Commissioners present Final Report to the Governor-General

According to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Royal Commissioners, the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO, have presented the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to the Governor-General, His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd).

The Final Report is the culmination of 28 months of work, including 23 public hearings involving 641 witnesses. Over 10,500 public submissions were received.

The Final Report, and the recommendations made in it, will be available to read on the Royal Commission website once the Report has been tabled in Parliament. Tabling is a matter for the Australian Government.

 

Aged care royal commission's recommendations must be adopted in full, advocate say

According to ABC News, advocates are calling for all the recommendations in the final report from the aged care royal commission to be adopted ahead of its release this week. Australian Aged Care Collaboration member and Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow said despite there having been 20 inquiries in 20 years, the major issues remained. She said while there have been obvious failings by successive governments to act on the recommendations of those inquiries, the sector also had a level of responsibility.

 

What will the aged care royal commission recommend? We think we know, and how the government will respond

According to ABC News, it is expected the government will release [the Royal Commission’s] final report today, and we already have a good idea of what will be in it because counsel assisting laid out all 124 recommendations in the final hearings last October. More surprising for this kind of inquiry is that we also know which changes the government is likely to reject — it's all there in black and white on the royal commission's website in a submission by the Commonwealth, namely the Department of Health and the federal aged care regulator. For those who are cynical about the value of a royal commission, it makes grim reading. Of the 124 recommendations, the joint submission supports just eight entirely.

 

Nurses’ union: Five recommendations the government must follow from the royal commission

According to Inside Ageing, as some providers have launched a pre-report campaign for additional funding for the sector, the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation this week repeated its calls for drastic change. Federal Secretary Annie Butler said over the last decade there had been a significant decline in the time nurses spent with residents in aged care, as the sector employed more personal care workers. “Mandated ratios is the lynchpin of reforms for the aged care sector,” she said. The union is calling for ratios of nurses, both enrolled and registered nurses, across the aged care sector.

 

Stakeholders told to “keep the pressure on”

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the aged care sector may need to put pressure on the government to see the royal commission’s recommendations come to life, an industry forum has heard. StewartBrown senior partner Grant Corderoy said everyone in the aged care sector should remain vigilant in their calls for reform following the release of the royal commission’s final report. The royal commissioners are due to hand the report to government this Friday, but previous inquiries show legislative and funding changes may be slow to follow, he said.

 

Providers say allied health proposal needs improving

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, Counsel Assisting’s recommendation for aged care homes to engage several allied health professionals fails to consider the challenges rural and remote operators face, aged care providers have told the royal commission. In its final submissions to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety last year, Counsel Assisting recommended that residential aged care provide a level of allied health care appropriate to each resident’s needs. They said providers should engage at least one of each type of allied health role including oral and mental health professionals, a podiatrist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, pharmacist, speech pathologist, dietitian, exercise physiologist and a music or art therapist. In its submission to the royal commission, not-for-profit rural aged care provider McLean Care gave in principle support to the recommendation, but raised concerns about accessing allied health professionals in rural and regional areas.

 

Coronavirus / COVID-19 News

Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout commences

According to Hospital and Healthcare, Australia’s vaccine program kicked off at the start of this week, with the country’s most vulnerable community members first off the block to receive the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine. The global rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been described as the biggest and most consequential product launch in modern history.

 

Providers report COVID vaccine rollout starting well

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, thousands of aged care residents around the country have received their COVID-19 jab as the government’s nation-wide vaccination rollout gets underway. A TLC Healthcare aged care facility in Victoria and five Uniting facilities in New South Wales and Canberra are among 240 aged care facilities to get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the first week of the rollout. More than 142,000 doses of this COVID-19 vaccine arrived last week, of which 30,000 have been allocated to aged care residents and staff.

 

HCP, CHSP workers next up for vaccination

According to Community Care Review, workers who deliver aged care services via the home care package and CHSP programs will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during the second phase of the national vaccine rollout. Prioritised front line health workers, including a targeted 318,000 aged and disability care staff and 190,000 residents, started getting their jabs of the Pfizer vaccine under phase 1a of the rollout this week. Phase 1b of the rollout includes staff who deliver services through CHSP and HCP, the health department says. It also includes people aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 55 and people with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability.

ICP lead training deadline

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

According to the Department of Health, the Department would like to thank all Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) leads in each residential aged care facility who are working hard to complete their coursework and assessments.

The Department has received feedback that some IPC leads may be having difficulty to complete their studies by 28 February 2021.

We would like to advise providers and IPC leads that:

  • It is the responsibility of providers to support IPC leads in completing their studies. If an IPC lead is unable to complete the assessment by the due date, providers should continue to provide ongoing support to ensure it is completed as soon as possible, including providing study leave and other support to prioritise the learning and skill development for the IPC lead.
  • Where an IPC lead has been enrolled in the course late, providers are to ensure support is provided to the IPC lead to complete their training as soon as possible. IPC leads should discuss with their employer about what support they require and when they can complete the training by.
  • In assessing a provider's performance against the Aged Care Quality Standards, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) will take a proportionate approach where providers can demonstrate they have made every effort to comply with the requirements, including completion of the specialist training by their IPC lead.

For further information on IPC leads visit the department's website.

 

Guidance for monitoring side effects of COVID-19 vaccines

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

According to the Department of Health, guidance is available for aged care facilities on monitoring patients after administration of COVID-19 vaccines. Information includes:

  • COVID-19 vaccine side effects symptom checker
  • How to report side effects / when to contact a healthcare professional
  • Common adverse events.

View the information sheet online.

 

Residential aged care facilities can choose to engage with local media on the vaccine rollout

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

According to the Department of Health, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to aged care facilities is attracting significant media attention. Residential aged care facilities can engage directly with media and participate in coverage if they choose. You do not need to direct all media enquiries to the Department of Health.

Choosing to interact with the media is at the discretion of each residential aged care facility. Each residential aged care facility can choose to publish their location and timing of scheduled vaccination at their own discretion, taking into consideration the privacy and safety of its residents and workers.

The Department of Health’s Media Team has proactively sourced residential aged care facility vaccination file footage that may alleviate sector concerns and satisfy media requirements. If a residential aged care facility has any concerns about engaging with the media or require access to file footage, they may contact the Department of Health’s Media Team via news@health.gov.au or phone (02) 6289 7400 / 0466 533 960.

Guidance information is available for facilities who would like to engage with media. You can request a copy by emailing communication.agedcare@health.gov.au.

 

Phase 1b rollout information for CHSP and HCP providers

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

According to the Department of Health, as part of the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy, workers in community and in-home aged care will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in Phase 1b along with other health care workers.

Phase 1b of the rollout includes staff who deliver services through Home Care Packages (HCP) and/or the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).

How will those people in phase 1b receive the vaccine?

People receiving Commonwealth-funded home and community aged care will be able to access vaccination through vaccination clinics or GP practices as soon as they become eligible for the vaccine.

To determine your eligibility to access the COVID-19 vaccine, you can use our new vaccine eligibility checker.

Information about the phased rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program is also available on the Department of Health website.

 

Guide to help frail older people make a decision about COVID-19 vaccination

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

The Department of Health has published a decision guide to help people who are frail or very old, including those living in residential aged care facilities and their representatives, make an informed decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

The guide includes information about the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, risks for older people, and current known side effects. Please share this information with your residents and their families, carers and substitute decision-makers. Any person considering getting a vaccine can also choose to talk to their GP or other health professional to help make an informed decision.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to aged care, visit the Department of Health website or subscribe to our COVID-19 vaccines update.

 

National review of COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian RACFs - revised dates - online workshop registrations now open

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

According to the Department of Health, Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly have been commissioned by the Department of Health to undertake a national review of COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities.

The review will examine lessons learnt from the management of COVID-19 outbreaks and identify critical factors which could reduce the risk of future outbreaks of COVID-19 and increase the likelihood of rapid detection and timely response to COVID-19 or any other infectious disease outbreaks.

The review is not service specific, instead drawing general conclusions from providers’ experiences, including those who managed to contain the spread within services. The review will provide recommendations to Government on how preparedness and responsiveness to potential future outbreaks may be supported, monitored and evaluated.

The team is seeking a cross section of representatives from Residential Aged Care Approved Providers to contribute to this work, through participation in a series of online workshops.

The workshops will be undertaken in the second and third weeks of March and will provide an opportunity to inform the review and its recommendations. Each workshop has fifty places and is scheduled for 2.5 hours during the revised dates below:

  • Wed 10 March: 9:30am to 12:00pm
  • Mon 15 March: 9:30am to 12:00pm
  • Tue 16 March: 9:30am to 12:00pm
  • Tue 16 March: 2:30pm to 5:00pm

** Please note workshop timeframes have been revised to provide more notice to Approved Providers at this very busy time. **

In order to access a range of views and perspectives, each Approved Provider should only nominate one (preferably an executive member) person to attend, who can represent the views of the Approved Provider.

Eligible representatives of Approved Providers of Australian RACFs can register via Eventbrite.

The workshops will complement online surveys (coming soon) which will be directed to the RACF-level and a series of interviews with providers which are already underway.

Should you have any queries with regard to the workshops, please email the reviewers at: agedcarecovid19review@gmail.com and they will respond to you directly.

 

COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine incorrectly administered to two patients at Brisbane aged care home

According to ABC News, a doctor who incorrectly gave two elderly people in a Queensland aged care home a "higher than the recommended dose" of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine, had not completed the required vaccination training. HealthCare Australia, which was responsible for the vaccination of the aged care residents in Queensland, said all health professionals had completed the online training provided through the Australian College of Nursing. However, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Parliament that HealthCare Australia had now revised its advice to say the doctor had not completed the required training.

 

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Bulletin 26 (COVID-19)

The latest Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Bulletin covers:

  • New COVID-19 vaccine readiness toolkit now available
  • Why your outbreak management plans must be service specific

Other News

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Bulletin 26

The latest Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Bulletin covers:

  • Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) – new resources and upcoming webinar
  • New SIRS modules on Alis coming soon – register now
  • Be prepared for risk-based questions at our onsite assessments
  • Free support for rural, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander care providers

 

Managing medication in aged care

According to Hospital and Healthcare, these days, pharmaceuticals and aged care tend to go hand in hand, but with 95% of aged-care residents living with a medication-induced problem, the relationship is far from harmonious.

 

Legislation

Secretary Approval: Nurse Immunisers - SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Vaccine [VIC] – commenced 21 February 2021

This Approval applies to a nurse who is registered in Division 1 of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia register and is not already endorsed to possess Schedule 4 Poisons under section 94 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and who provides evidence to their employer of currency of competence and ongoing professional development in immunisation and who fulfils the additional criteria set out in clause 1 of this Approval.

The nurse may administer the COVID-19 vaccine that has been reconstituted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and transferred to a single–use syringe ready for administration by a person authorised by the Secretary to do so.

 

Secretary Approval: Pharmacist Immunisers - SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Vaccine [VIC] – commenced 21 February 2021

This approval applies to a pharmacist who, at the time of the administration of the Schedule 4 poison, namely any SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) VACCINE approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (COVID-19 VACCINE), holds general registration with the Pharmacy Board of Australia and who fulfils the additional criteria set out in clause 1 of this Approval.

The pharmacist may administer COVID-19 VACCINE that has been reconstituted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and transferred to a single-use syringe ready for administration by a person authorised by the Secretary to do so.

 

Public Health Emergency Order under Section 22D (Authorisation for preparation and administration – COVID-19 Vaccine (students)) [VIC] – commenced 21 February 2021

The purpose of this Order is to address the public health emergency posed by the ongoing global SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, which is currently affecting the State of Victoria. In furtherance of that purpose, this Order is intended to facilitate the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) VACCINE program, by authorising certain tertiary students registered with AHPRA, who are training and/or studying to qualify for registration in the fields of medicine, nursing, midwifery, and paramedicine, to obtain, possess and use (including to administer) any SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) VACCINE approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (COVID-19 VACCINE) under the conditions outlined in this Order.

 

Aged Care (Subsidy, Fees and Payments) Amendment (Cessation of Temporary Home Care Viability Supplement Funding Increases) Determination 2021 [CTH] – commences 1 March 2021

The purpose of the Amending Determination is to cease, from 1 March 2021, temporary home care viability supplement funding increases payable to approved aged care providers, which were announced by the Australian Government on 31 August 2020. The temporary home care viability supplement funding increases were implemented by the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Subsidies-COVID-19 Support Supplement and Workforce Continuity Funding Measures No. 2) Instrument 2020.

 

Resources and Upcoming Events

10th Annual Australian Healthcare Week - 17th - 18th of March 2021 at the International Convention Centre, Sydney.

According to IPC Events, don’t miss your chance to be part of Australia’s largest healthcare event and join the Australian Healthcare community for two days of extensive networking and learning and development opportunities.

Please note, Australian Healthcare Week will operate in accordance with our COVID-Safety Plan and in line with the guidance of NSW Health and the International Convention Centre (ICC), Sydney.

 

Governance in Aged Care: Beyond the Royal Commission – 2-day digital conference, 14 and 15 April 2021

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, with the imminent release of the Royal Commission into Quality and Safety in Aged Care, providers are at a critical turning point. Now is the time to carve out a new way forward to better support older Australians and their families, while ensuring a strong and sustainable industry.

Designed in partnership with COTA and ACSA, the Governance in Aged Care: Beyond the Royal Commission conference brings together experts, advocates and leaders from across Australia to unpack the Final Report and tackle the biggest issues for effective governance. The conference is taking place online, on 14th & 15th April 2021.

 

Webinar series: Changes to regulatory arrangements for residential aged care providers supporting NDIS participants from 1 December 2020

According to the Department of Health, Residential Aged Care (RAC) providers supporting National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants will need to be registered* with the NDIS Commission from 1 December 2020. This also applies to RAC providers who start supporting NDIS participants after 1 December 2020. *Note that registration will be automatic for RAC providers with NDIS participants as at 1 December 2020.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) is currently delivering a series of webinars to help RAC providers with the transition and to understand their responsibilities.

 

Flu vaccination poster

The Department of Health has issued this Flu Vaccination Poster. Residential aged care facilities may wish to display the attached poster at entrances, to alert anyone entering the facility of the flu vaccination requirements that came into effect on 1 May 2020.

 

Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line

According to The Department of Health, a new Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line has been set up to provide information, support and check on older Australians during the period of social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COTA Australia, National Seniors, Dementia Australia and the Older Person’s Advocacy Network have banded together to deliver this service with support from the Australian Government.

Senior Australians, their families and carers can freecall 1800 171 866 if they:

  • would like to talk with someone about what COVID-19 means for them or a loved one
  • are feeling lonely or distressed
  • are caring for a someone and need some information or a listening ear about what COVID-19 means for your circumstances
  • are worried about COVID-19 means for their usual aged care service
  • are worried about a friend or family member living with dementia.
  • are unable to access information on the internet and would like up-to-date advice.

Home care services providers can also use the number and dial option 1 to refer home care clients who would like a call from an independent organisation to check on their wellbeing.

The service will include outbound and inbound calls to provide contact, reassurance and practical advice on connecting to services to maximise social engagement and wellbeing whilst at home.

 

Resources on diverse population groups are now available for aged care staff

According to The Department of Health, The End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) website helps you to care for older Australians at the end of life. Our new diversity resources can help health workers and aged care staff to care for:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Care leavers
  • Carers
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse people
  • Financially or socially disadvantaged people
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
  • People living in rural and remote areas
  • People with spirituality and faith beliefs
  • Veterans

How people think about death, dying and end of life is different for each person. Learning about these differences can help you to provide good palliative care. Access these resources on the Diverse Population Groups page of the ELDAC website.

 

What Matters Most – New person centred care resources

According to The Department of Health, Palliative Care Australia, through a Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund grant, has launched a suite of resources to encourage early conversations about What Matters Most to older people, their care and their end of life preferences.

 

6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care

Issued by the Department of Health, this infographic outlines the 6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care.

 

Aged care video alert: Dignity of risk

According to Lexology, the concept of dignity of risk is not entirely new, however it now has a position of prominence in aged care with the Aged Care Quality Standards. In this video update, senior associate Dr Melanie Tan explains:

  • What does dignity of risk mean?
  • Where and when does dignity of risk apply?
  • What is the duty of care within dignity of risk?
ACE Editorial Team
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | ACE Editorial Team
ACE is published by CompliSpace and Critical Success Solutions. CompliSpace is an Australian company that specialises in helping organisations manage their legal and regulatory obligations. Critical Success Solutions is an Australian company that specialises in helping Aged Care and Disability Services manage their regulatory and legal requirements.

Subscribe