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Weekly Wrap: 06 September 2020

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Weekly Wrap: 06 September 2020

Aged care news highlights from the week ending 30 August 2020.

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 and Critical Success Solutions.


Coronavirus / COVID-19 News

Update to residential and home care subsidies and supplements from
1 September 2020

(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, On 20 March 2020 the Government announced a temporary increase in funding for residential and home care providers to support additional costs and workforce supply pressures resulting from COVID-19. The temporary additional daily funding amounts for residential care was administered through an uplift to subsidies paid through the Aged Care Funding Instrument from 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2020. The additional funding for home care was paid through an uplift to the basic care subsidy for the same period.

Therefore, new rates for subsidies and supplements will take effect from 1 September 2020.

The Government announced today that the temporary 30 per cent increase to the viability supplement in residential and home care and the 30 per cent increase in the residential care homeless supplement that were due to cease on 31 August 2020 will be extended for a further 6 months to 28 February 2021.

 

Aged care regulator 'too late to act' in enforcing standards

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, aged care homes will have to employ on-site infection control officers to receive COVID-19 prevention funding as new data reveals the federal regulator did not enforce national infection prevention standards in some homes until tragically late. A timeline provided to the Senate's COVID-19 committee shows the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission issued 13 Victorian residential facilities with "notices to agree" in the five months to August 4, but 10 already had outbreaks of the disease when the action was taken.

 

Centre supporting more than 115 COVID-stricken facilities

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, Victoria’s aged care response centre is actively monitoring 116 aged care facilities with coronavirus outbreaks as the centre marks a month in action. It comes as Victoria reported 1,412 active cases relating to aged care facilities and the death of 22 more aged care residents on Thursday. It is about 75 fewer active aged care cases than the day before but the number of infections and deaths among aged care residents continues to climb.

 

Advice for aged care facilities on communicating to families about COVID-19

The Department of Health has released guidance for aged care facilities and staff dealing with COVID-19 in Victoria. Includes advice on communicating with families.

 

COVID-19 consumer resources

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has developed resources to support you by suggesting options you may consider on how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. These resources includes a poster, how-to guide and a short video.

 

Webinar: Guiding Principles in Victoria

(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, following the Government’s announcement on 31 August 2020 regarding the 4 week extension of the Support for Aged Care Workforce in COVID-19 (SACWIC) grant, Providers located in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are invited to attend a Zoom Webinar co-hosted by the Department of Health and provider peak bodies.

The Guiding Principles Webinar is for Providers in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire who have implemented single site arrangements as set out in the Guiding Principles. The webinar will provide practical guidance on how to apply for SACWIC funding, as detailed in the Grant Opportunity Guidelines. The Grant is open now, with Guidelines available on the Grant Connect website.

The Guiding Principles Webinar will be held on 8 September 2020 at 14:00 AEST (Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney). Make sure you register in advance to attend the webinar.

 

Senate censures aged care minister

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the Australian Senate has reprimanded the aged care minister for failing to take responsibility for the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the aged care sector. There have been more than 4,000 positive cases of COVID-19 linked to aged care facilities in Victoria. Since July, 1,850 Victorian aged care residents have tested positive and 602 have died, updated Federal government data on Friday shows. A total of 1,924 aged care residents have tested positive nationally and 634 covid-positive residents have died since the pandemic started. Labor Senator Penny Wong moved a motion in the Senate on Thursday to censure Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck for “failing to take responsibility” for the crisis and “describing his management of aged care as a high water mark.”

 

Watchdog surveys consumers about home care during COVID

According to Community Care Review, the aged care regulator is reaching out directly to consumers for the first time to gain an insight into home care during COVID-19. The Consumer Engagement Survey for Home Care Package Services, which began in June, aims to develop a better understanding of the quality of care being provided by service providers, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said. Ms Anderson told the Dementia Australia Symposium Series on Tuesday that more than 4,200 calls have already been made out of a targeted 5,000.

 

Gov’t adds $563 million to aged care’s COVID response

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the Federal Government has announced another half million dollars to extend measures for the aged care sector’s response to the pandemic including the controversial workforce retention scheme. The $563 million funding was announced by Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck and on Monday and comes just 10 days since the previous boost of $171 million. It includes another $154.5 million for the retention bonus, $245 million for the per-resident support payment to facilities and an extension of the viability and homelessness supplements, bringing the government’s aged care pandemic response package to $1.5 billion to date.

 

Statement from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner on regulatory activities relating to aged care in the context of COVID-19

(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 Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner has released a statement regarding the growth in site visits and regulatory activities in the context of COVID-19. The Commission has conducted more than 1,100 site visits to aged care services since January 2020, including 410 visits to check infection control practices. The Commission modified its regulatory program in March 2020 to focus additional effort where it is needed most to ensure that providers are doing everything possible to keep aged care consumers safe.

The Commission is working with state and territory governments and their local health authorities across the nation to monitor and test preparedness of aged care residential services. The approach is drawing on lessons learned from outbreaks in NSW and Victoria to ensure that all services nationally have well-tested plans, adequate training and infection control practices to minimise infection risks.

The full statement can be found here.

 

Updated aged care directions in Queensland

(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, in response to recently announced cases of COVID-19 in Queensland, additional restrictions have been put in place for residential aged care facilities in specific Local Government Areas (LGAs). A list of restricted LGAs is available on the Queensland Health website. The updated restrictions apply to visitors, residents and staff and include:

Visitors

  • No personal visitors, including care and support visitors are allowed to enter
  • Only persons providing an essential purpose will be allowed to enter
  • End of life visits will still be allowed
  • Anyone entering a facility must wear a single use surgical face mask

Residents

  • Cannot leave the residential aged care facility unless they are receiving health care, attending a funeral or for an emergency or for compassionate reasons
  • The residential aged care facility or the Chief Health Officer can provide an exemption for leave on compassionate reasons

Staff

  • Residential aged care facility operators must make sure staff do not work across multiple facilities as much as possible

The full advice is outlined on the Queensland Health website.

 

Reminder - stay home when unwell and infection control training

(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, providers are reminded that everyone working in aged care should stay at home if unwell, even with mild symptoms, and get tested for COVID-19. Providers are also reminded of the need to ensure aged care staff have completed the COVID-19 infection control training.

This training covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19. Additional training modules, specifically designed for aged care workers are also available. This includes a module on outbreak management, which takes approximately 8 minutes to complete. By the end of the module participants will be able to:

  • identify what a COVID-19 outbreak is
  • demonstrate the appropriate infection prevention control measures for a COVID-19 outbreak
  • explain how to isolate and cohort residents during a COVID-19 outbreak
  • identify appropriate cleaning and waste disposal procedures during a COVID-19 outbreak.

If you would like to access the aged care training, users will need to register their workplaces as ‘aged care’. If you have already registered for online training but not with ‘aged care’ as your workplace, email support@covid-19training.gov.au for a priority response.

Additional resources on correct PPE use can also be found on the Department of Health’s website, including a video demonstrating how to wear PPE for aged care workers.

 

Managing coronavirus clinical waste in Victoria

(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 Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is coordinating a cross-government effort to manage a 100-fold increase in clinical waste being produced during Coronavirus outbreaks in some of Victoria’s aged care facilities.

The Response Centre has worked with private industry, the Victorian Government and regulators to secure storage containers, rubbish collection, incinerators and safe disposal and processing of the waste. The waste increase has been due to the amount of PPE required for staff implementing the increased measures to strengthen infection control. Government agencies have worked to streamline the permit process for both collecting and safely disposing of the waste. Read more on the management of coronavirus clinical waste.

The Victorian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also produced a clinical waste fact sheet to assist providers.

 

Updated advice from NSW Health

(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, NSW Health has provided updated advice for Residential Aged Care Facilities and Home Care Providers regarding the use of masks and visitor restrictions.

Following recent cases in the Sydney, there is a request for residential aged care facilities in metropolitan Sydney, the Nepean Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions to implement visitor restrictions for the next two weeks. In addition, staff who work or live in these areas must wear face masks whilst at work. This temporary requirement will be reviewed in two weeks.

The Australian Government is prioritising Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) distribution from the National Medical Stockpile to aged care services that are most in need.

To ensure PPE from the National Medical Stockpile is effectively prioritised on a needs-basis, providers are being asked to complete a new Aged Care PPE Request Form, please submit an online application. Providers should also continue to try to source the PPE through suppliers while awaiting a response. Providers need to establish an ongoing general PPE supply.

 

How a pandemic changed home care

According to Community Care Review, as the royal commission opened hearings into home care this week, it heard that COVID-19 would likely reposition home care in Australia’s aged care system. “COVID is likely to reinforce people’s preference to age in place at home, and do all they can to avoid admission to residential care,” Counsel Assisting Peter Gray said in his opening statement. Community Care Review surveyed providers about how they saw the pandemic affecting the home care sector now and into the future.

 

‘How much is a life worth?’: Abbott delivers controversial COVID-19 speech

According to Aged Care Insite, in a speech that drew the ire of Australian commentators and politicians, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has critiqued governments for avoiding “uncomfortable questions about the level of deaths that we might have to live with” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delivering a keynote speech about Australia and the coronavirus to UK thinktank Policy Exchange, Abbott said while the generation that faced World War Two was ready to risk life to preserve freedom, the current generation is “ready to risk freedom to preserve life”.

 

Other News

Most aged care facilities operating efficiently

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, just over one in 10 aged care homes meet the best of three quality levels in Australia’s current system and they are most likely to be small-sized or government-owned, University of Queensland research has found. According to the research conducted for the aged care royal commission, it would cost around $621 million a year to improve all aged care homes to the best level if they operated efficiently, which most currently are. And the sector would need $3.2 billion a year for all homes to improve quality and operate with a small-sized home model, the paper released on Thursday shows.

 

Albo comes out for minimum staff levels, union pushing Medicare rise to fund aged care

According to Aged Care Insite, in a departure from the policies taken to the last federal election, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has come out in favour of minimum staffing levels in aged care. Speaking to the National Press Club, Albanese decried the state of affairs in the sector and blasted the current aged care minister Richard Colbeck. “There are few greater indictments on this Government than Minister Colbeck’s performance last week before the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 led by Katy Gallagher,” said Albanese.

 

Boost Medicare levy to transform aged care, says union

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, worker representative group Health Services Union is calling for an increase in the Medicare levy to inject $20 billion into the aged care sector for more workers. Australia can transform the aged care system in four years by increasing the Medicare levy from 2 per cent to 2.65 per cent to create an additional 59,000 jobs, according to economic modelling undertaken by Equity Economists for HSU.

 

Prioritise home care, aged commission told

According to The Canberra Times, Australia should urgently prioritise home care over residential aged care for elderly people, a royal commission has been told. The coronavirus pandemic will likely reinforce people's preference to be cared for at home, senior counsel assisting the inquiry, Peter Gray, said on Monday. He noted it is cheaper for the federal government to provide home care packages at $71 a day on average compared to $191 for residential care. During opening submissions, Mr Gray also criticised the aged sector regulator for an apparent drop in assessments of home care service providers since the middle of last year.

 

Aged care leaders need more support, education: report

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, there is a lack of quality leadership in residential aged care, according to a new industry benchmarking report. The QPS Benchmarking Residential Aged Care Performance Report 2020, which was released on 20 August, draws on data from 13,714 residents, 11,645 relatives and 19,655 employees to explore the clinical governance of residential aged care in Australia. The report recommends a focus on strategic leadership based on the needs and rights of consumers, investment in education to navigate the complex and dynamic regulatory environment and clear career pathways and succession planning.

 

Assisted dying laws help 179 Victorians end their lives

According to Community Care Review, close to 200 Victorians have used voluntary assisted dying laws to end their lives since they were introduced a year ago, with numbers increasing by 50 per cent over the last six months. Figures contained in the third report of the Independent Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board which was tabled in parliament on Tuesday show 124 people with a terminal illness used a prescribed medication to end their lives in the first half of the year. The report shows that 348 people were assessed for eligibility between January and June, 272 people applied to access the laws, and 231 permits were issued. Fifty-five people accessed the laws to end their lives between June and December 2019.

 

Aged care organisations fail on cyber security education

According to Community Care Review, less than a quarter of aged care industry organisations are providing workers cyber security training and support, an aged care forum has heard. The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council has been funded by the Department of Health to undertake a three-month research project to evaluate the sector’s technology capabilities and readiness. The Capabilities in Aged and Community Care Readiness an Evaluation of Innovation and Technology (CARE-IT) project, which was completed at the end of June, involved a survey of 421 aged and community care industry service providers and software vendors.

 

Survey on food and nutrition – last chance for aged care homes

(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, You have until 11 September to complete the Survey of Food, Nutrition and the Dining Experience in Australian Aged Care Homes. Please let the person in your organisation who is most responsible for food, hydration and nutrition know about this survey now.

Improving food and the social elements of eating can reduce people’s needs for other aged care services. In its interim report, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety identified food as a major quality and safety issue.

The survey is being conducted in preparation for the National Congress on food, nutrition and the dining experience in aged care. The aim is to find innovative options for improving food and the food experience in aged care services.

Your input will help give the Congress a complete picture to work with.

 

Five-star approach boosts residents’ dining experiences

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, West Australian aged care provider Baptistcare has recruited a team of five-star chefs to ensure residents receive quality choices and appetising meals full of flavour. Residents are now served flavoursome meals including a buffet breakfast from chefs, who come from fine-dining venues in the hospitality industry with no previous aged care experience. The approach, operated by Baptistcare’s catering arm Aurum, has been rolled out to the providers 11 aged care facilities in Perth and regional WA. It is led executive chef Todd Cheavins, who previously worked at the Richardson Hotel Perth and cooked for celebrities while working at luxury hotels around the world.

 

Online aged care service denies dodging regulation

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, aged care service contracting platform Mable has defended itself against criticism that it offers a model which operates outside the regulatory framework and should be banned. Mable founder and CEO Peter Scutt told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on Monday that the online platform merely facilitates engagement between care workers and third parties who want to engage them. “Its predominant focus is connecting people with people,” Mr Scutt said.

 

New Aged Care Workforce Industry Council website

(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 new Aged Care Workforce Industry Council website provides a platform to learn more about the Council, its goals and its members.

The website includes:

  • pages dedicated to the industry and its workforce
  • the Council’s five programs of work
  • a sign-up mechanism for employees and organisations wanting to commit to the Voluntary Industry Code of Practice
  • the Council’s latest media, including Board communiques
  • access to subscribe to receive update alerts.

This website showcases the work Industry, Government and the Council are doing to build a better, more sustainable aged care system across Australia, with a clear focus on the consumer.

 

My Dementia Companion pilot program

(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, My Dementia Companion is one of four winning technology ideas from Dementia Australia’s Decoding Dementia 2019 Innovation Program. It is now ready to pilot. The innovative web tool, My Dementia Companion, guides family, friends and carers through one of life's most challenging and confusing journeys. The web tool offers personalised and practical support for a person’s dementia journey. It is easy to use and accessible at any time on a phone or computer. The free, 6-8 week pilot will enable users to explore the app and provide feedback. It will enable people to:

  • find government services
  • access local support and services
  • better understand dementia and how to develop care and coping strategies at home.

For more information, or for any families wishing to participate in the pilot, visit the My Dementia Companion website.

 

Seven year Victorian study results in elder abuse markers

According to Aged Care Guide, a new study from advocacy group, Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV), and ageing researcher, National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), has found important markers for elder abuse in Victoria.

 

Legislation

Aged Care (Subsidy, Fees and Payments) Amendment (Cessation of Temporary Funding Increases) Determination 2020 (Cth) – Commenced 01.09.20

This instrument amends the Aged Care (Subsidy, Fees and Payments) Determination 2014 to cease, from 1 September 2020, temporary aged care funding increases payable to approved aged care providers announced by the Australian Government on 20 March 2020. The temporary aged care funding increases provided additional support from 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2020 inclusive for the residential and home care sectors, including flexible care, in response to pressures on workforce supply resulting from COVID-19.

 

Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) (Subsidy and Other Measures) Amendment (Cessation of Temporary Funding Increases) Determination 2020 (Cth) – Commenced 01.09.20

This instrument amends Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) (Subsidy and Other Measures) Determination 2014 to cease from 1 September 2020 temporary aged care funding increases payable to approved aged care providers. The temporary aged care funding increases provided additional support from 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2020 inclusive for the residential and home care sectors, including flexible care, in response to pressures on workforce supply resulting from COVID-19.

 

Resources and Upcoming Events

LASA National Congress – online 12-23 October 2020

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, designed for any member of our industry – from managers to carers – this vital professional development opportunity will provide you with a full schedule of quality sessions.

 

New Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Resources – issued June 2020

The ACQSC has issued the following resources:

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Glossary: The Commission has produced a glossary of common terms to aid understanding of the aged care services sector. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and is provided as general information only.

Common questions you may want to ask residential aged care services about COVID-19: You, your friends and family have a right to know how your residential aged care service is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have developed some common questions that you can ask your service provider during this time.

Service Compliance Ratings Fact Sheet: The Department of Health, in partnership with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission), is introducing a service compliance rating system for residential aged care services. The rating system was developed in consultation with stakeholders, including senior Australians, their caregivers, aged care providers, and a range of peak bodies.

 

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.

 

Calculating residential accommodation payments in a leap year

This year is a leap year, with 366 days instead of 365. The Department of Health has received queries from approved providers of residential care seeking advice on how to calculate a daily accommodation payment (DAP) in a leap year. The calculators specified in the Fees and Payments Principles 2014 (No. 2) (the Principles) refer to 365 days for working out:

  • the DAP (or contribution) equivalent to a refundable accommodation deposit (RAD) (or contribution)
  • the amount of interest on a RAD (or contribution) balance or accommodation bond balance.

Even though 2020 is a leap year, residential care providers should continue to use 365 days when calculating DAP amounts and the interest payable on refunds of lump sum deposits. But please be aware that daily payments and daily contributions are payable for 366 days in 2020.

 

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.

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