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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Weekly Wrap: 09 August 2020

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Weekly Wrap: 09 August 2020

Aged care news highlights from the week ending 09 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

Federal departments had no specific COVID plan for aged care: royal commission counsel

According to The Conversation, Australia’s aged care sector was “underprepared” to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak and federal authorities had no specific plan for it, according to a stinging indictment from Peter Rozen QC, senior counsel assisting the royal commission into aged care. In a statement critical of authorities and providers, Rozen said while much was done to prepare the health sector more generally for the pandemic, “neither the Commonwealth Department of Health nor the aged care regulator developed a COVID-19 plan specifically for the aged care sector”. Rozen was speaking at the start of several days of hearings to look at the sector’s preparations and response to the crisis. The commission will probe the NSW outbreaks in homes but not delve in detail into particular homes in Victoria because the crisis is ongoing there.

 

Regulator cracking down on infection control, PPE practices

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has announced surprise compliance checks on practices and procedures related to infection control and personal protective equipment in response to the growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria’s aged care facilities. A provider group is questioning the regulator’s approach while groups agree that facilities have put a lot of focus on preparation and training over the last six months, provider peaks tell Australian Ageing Agenda.

 

‘Don’t tell us what to do’: facilities ignored PPE warnings from GPs

According to Aged Care Insite, ‘Don’t tell us what to do’ was the message Victorian GP Sachin Patel received from aged care facilities. Patel says his practice, Aged Care GP – which services 70 aged care homes in Victoria – has been writing letters to facilities since January about the dangers of COVID-19 and the importance of proper PPE usage, but Patel and his GPs still faced pushback when they turned up in full PPE to conduct check-ups on residents. “Even on the 21st of May, we said ‘you’re going to be looking into the media, seeing that it seems like this has all passed and it’s all done, and … while everyone else is thinking that, I can assure you, it’s going to be the complete opposite’. So, what we’re saying to you is we’re coming in full PPE and we’re going to double down on it now, and we encourage you to get your staff to use PPE wherever possible,” Patel tells Aged Care Insite. When his GPs would show up in full kit – which often included hooded APR masks – they were told that it wasn’t a good look and that the appearance of the full PPE might scare people.

 

900 active COVID cases in Vic aged care prompts warning for other states

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, as the number of aged care residents in Victoria testing positive to coronavirus this month passes 500, aged care provider peaks are warning other states to prepare now to avoid a similar situation. Provider peaks bodies Aged & Community Services Australia and Leading Age Services Australia say early hospitalisation, testing of aged care workers and preparation are among measures that could help aged care respond to outbreaks.

 

Warning as cyber criminals target aged care sector

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, an international cyber attack which resulted in the theft and release of personal data from an aged care provider has sparked warnings across the sector. Regis Healthcare advised the Australian Securities Exchange on Monday that an overseas actor had copied data from its IT system and released personal information. The incident sparked a warning from the Australian Cyber Security Centre that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting healthcare organisations, including the aged care sector.

 

Victorian aged care facilities transitioning to single site operations

According to Aged Care Guide, COVID-19 has exposed the issues of employees working across multiple aged care facilities during a pandemic after a few aged care workers carried the coronavirus between different nursing homes in Victoria. Since identifying cross-site transmission as an issue, the Federal Government's Department of Health is providing guidance and support to Victorian aged care providers in transitioning to single site operations for their workforce. The Federal and State Government believe that reducing the movement of staff between aged care sites will minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading further to more older vulnerable Australians.

 

Vaccination Entry Restrictions Mistakenly Removed from Victorian Care Facilities Directions

According to Aged Care Essentials, the Victorian Public Health Commander mistakenly removed vaccination entry restrictions from Care Facilities Direction (No 8). The Care Facilities Direction is the instrument that the Victorian Government uses to set the rules on who can and cannot enter an aged care facility.

The vaccination entry restriction, which was set out in Care Facilities Direction (No 7), said that a person is not allowed to enter an aged care facility unless they have an up-to-date influenza vaccination. The restriction was omitted from Care Facilities Direction (No 8) and from Care Facilities Direction (No 9). As at 7 August 2020, Care Facilities Direction (No 9) represents the current law.

In private correspondence sent 5 August 2020, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services advised that the omission was an error. They advised that the vaccination entry restrictions still apply in Victoria and the Care Facilities Direction will soon be changed to reflect this.

 

Opening of the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) grant opportunity

(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 Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) Grant Opportunity is designed to minimise the risk of infection to aged care workers, residents and other consumers of aged care services. The Grant is now open to approved Residential Aged Care providers, approved National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFACP) providers and approved Home Care providers, initially limited to Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

Examples of eligible workforce costs under SACWIC are those that will support eligible workers:

  • who normally work at multiple residential aged care facilities, but will be working solely at the facility being applied for
  • who are not able to work because they have been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, require testing or are subject to self-isolation or quarantine requirements 
  • who are undertaking training in the event a skills gap arises when existing workers are unable to work due to experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or self-isolation or quarantine requirements.

You can view the Grant Opportunity and documentation at Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (GO4215) Program.

 

Dispatch of face shields 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, in line with the Minister for Health’s announcement on face shields, single use face shields have been distributed from the National Medical Stockpile to all residential aged care facilities in Victoria, with priority distribution to Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. Services should now have received a delivery of single use face shields and surgical masks from the National Medical Stockpile. All Victorian residential aged care facilities have been contacted via email this week about the distribution of face shields and masks.

We are requesting the CEO, facility manager or nominated contact, reply to the Department’s email confirming you have received your allocation of PPE. Alternatively, if you have not received an initial dispatch of face shields please notify us immediately via email to agedcarecovidppe@health.gov.au.

The use of PPE such as masks and face shields is vital in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The guide to face shield use can be found here. Allocations are being made in two deliveries, Tranche 1 between 30-31 July 2020 and Tranche 2 between 3-10 August 2020.

If you urgently need PPE and cannot source surgical masks or face shields before the Tranche 2 supplies arrive, or you continue to have trouble sourcing PPE, please submit an online application.

If you have a general enquiry about PPE, please email agedcarecovidppe@health.gov.au

 

More than 100 aged care homes across Australia failed to make sure they were prepared to protect residents against coronavirus

According to the Daily Mail, more than 100 Australian aged care homes have failed to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Between March 1 and May 31, 104 aged care facilities did not comply with coronavirus prevention standards, a Senate inquiry into the government's response to the pandemic revealed. Two nursing homes were sent sanctions while 23 were given non-compliance notices.

 

Retention bonus targets care staff due to their reluctance to work with virus

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, more than a quarter of aged care facilities have failed to apply for the COVID-19 staff retention bonus, which is limited to direct care workers because they are the most wary of working during an outbreak, a Senate inquiry heard this week. The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 held a public hearing on Tuesday into the aged care sector’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Workforce retention bonus payment

(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 workforce retention payments grant round has been extended and will now close at 2pm on 14 August 2020. The workforce retention payment rewards eligible aged care workers by offering a retention payment bonus.  Employers must apply to receive the grant funding which they then pass on to eligible workers.  The grant funding will be provided to employers in two rounds with the first round of payments currently under way and the second to be made from late September.

All information regarding this grant opportunity can be found on the GrantConnect website. In addition we have Retention Bonus FAQs to assist providers and their employees.

Provider enquiries on the application may be submitted in writing to: grant.ATM@health.gov.au.

 

Updated restrictions and advice from 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, increased restrictions have been put in place for residential aged care facilities in Queensland. All residential aged care facilities, no matter where they are located must have a workforce management plan in place that makes it mandatory for employees to:

  • tell their residential aged care facility employer of any other places of employment
  • tell their residential aged care facility employer if a COVID-19 case is identified at their other workplace.

Due to recently announced cases in Queensland extra restrictions have now been put in place for residential aged care facilities in:

Brisbane City Local Government Area (PDF)

Ipswich City Local Government Area (PDF)

Logan City Local Government Area (PDF)

Redland City Local Government Area (PDF)

Gold Coast City Local Government Area (PDF)

Scenic Rim Regional Local Government Area (PDF).

For 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.

For 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.

For staff:

  • Residential aged care facility operators must make sure staff do not work across multiple facilities as much as possible
  • Anyone providing medical care (including staff, volunteers or family members) must wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in accordance with Commonwealth and state government guidance.

The Queensland advice can be found here.

 

Updated restrictions and advice from NSW

(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 state’s Chief Health Officer has advised all NSW aged care facilities must ensure:

  • There is an infection control lead or champion at the facility
  • Staff are well trained and can demonstrate competency in infection prevention and control, particularly use of PPE
  • Sufficient stocks of PPE are held on site.

The local government area of Bankstown has also been added to the list of regions required to implement the following measures:

  • Any visitors to any residential aged care facility who have been in the following local government areas in the previous 14 days should be excluded from the facility: Bankstown, Waverley, Woollahra, Randwick, eastern part of City of Sydney, Parramatta, Fairfield, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly.
  • All aged care staff who reside in the above local government areas or a NSW/VIC border community must wear a surgical mask while in the facility.
  • Staff and visitors who have visited any of the locations on the same date as a COVID-19 case (see updated list of venues and dates) should be excluded for a period of 14 days since their visit to the listed location. 
  • All residential aged care staff who work in residential aged care facilities located within the above LGAs and in communities along the NSW/VIC border must wear a surgical mask while in the facility.
  • Residential aged care facilities in the above local government areas should not allow any visitors (visitors performing essential caring functions may be allowed but must wear a mask). In exceptional circumstances, seek advice from your local NSW Health public health unit on 1300 066 055.

Home Care Service Providers who either live or work in any of these designated local government areas must also wear face masks while providing services. View the latest NSW Health advice for residential providers and home care providers.

 

Reminder - notify the Commonwealth

(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, all aged care service providers are reminded that you must immediately notify the Commonwealth Department of Health of any COVID-19 cases among residents and staff. Email the Department of Health at agedcareCOVIDcases@health.gov.au.

 

Home care workers miss out on paid pandemic leave

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, home care workers have been left out of a decision by the Fair Work Commission to allow paid pandemic leave for aged care workers. In a decision handed down on Monday, the Fair Work Commission ruled that the Aged Care Award should be varied to provide for paid pandemic leave. It said the Nurses Award and the Health Professionals Award should also be varied to provide paid pandemic leave to workers who are employed by residential aged care providers or required to work in residential aged care facilities.

 

Other News

Use of physical and chemical restraint in residential aged care – seeking views

According to the Department of Health, Australian Healthcare Associates (AHA) is consulting with consumers and aged care staff on behalf of the department as part of a legislated review of new laws that aim to minimise the inappropriate use of restraint in residential aged care.

 

Consumer consultation (residents, carers and their families)

AHA is seeking the views of current or previous aged care residents and their families, friends or carers about experiences of restraint in residential aged care since 1 July 2019.

Residential aged care providers and peak bodies are encouraged to promote this opportunity to residents, families, friends and carers. The interview does not ask for any information that could identify the participant or the facility.

Views can be shared confidentially by:

calling AHA on 1300 119 564 (9am-5pm AEST) by Monday 31 August 2020 to complete the phone interview (interpreters available on request)

visiting the AHA website

emailing restraintreview@ahaconsulting.com.au

Call 1300 119 564 (9am-5pm AEST) for more information.

 

Residential aged care providers survey

AHA is seeking the views of residential aged care management and staff (nursing and allied health staff and personal care workers) as part of a review of the Restraints Principles. Even if you’re not aware of the Restraints Principles, AHA would still like to hear your views on the use of restraint in residential aged care.

Complete the anonymous survey by Friday 14 August 2020.

 

Aus makes top four G20 countries for positive aging

According to Community Care Review, a report has found that Australia ranks in the top four G20 countries across a range of indicators for supporting longevity and healthy ageing. The pre-COVID report Shifting demographics, a global study on creating inclusive environments for ageing populations, by the Economist Intelligence Unit, is based on a global benchmarking analysis looking at health and social care, economic opportunity, and inclusive structures and institutions. It found Australia leads G20 nations in the Asia Pacific in creating an enabling environment for healthy ageing with an overall score of 75.2 out of 100, ranking second behind the US. Australia was fourth on the overall G20 ladder for adaptive health and social care systems, accessible economic opportunity and inclusive social structures and institutions. However Australia had the second highest poverty rate for people aged 66 and over compared to the total population.

 

New clinic to support older people with cognitive difficulties

According to Aged Care Guide, Macquarie University in Sydney has opened a new special health clinic that utilises doctors, clinical neuropsychologists and lawyers to assist with challenges around decision-making for older people with cognitive difficulties.

 

Update: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

(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 timeframe for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Royal Commission) has been extended. The Royal Commission’s final report is now due on 26 February 2021. Public submissions to the Royal Commission closed on 31 July 2020. More information about the Royal Commission, including upcoming hearings, is available on the Royal Commission’s website.

 

New guidance on psychosocial care for older people

(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, older people with advanced and life-limiting conditions face many challenges and may experience a range of psychosocial issues. When these issues are not identified and addressed, they can have a profound impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as on their family, friends, and carers. These issues can also affect the services provided by aged care and at-home palliative care organisations. palliAGED has developed new evidence-based and practical resources to support Australia’s aged care workforce in providing psychosocial care. These include the:

Psychosocial Care Practice page listing evidence-based tools, links, and other information to guide aged care staff

Evidence Summary page providing a short synopsis of findings of systematic reviews on psychosocial care

Evidence Synthesis page.

 

REMINDER: Business Improvement Fund grant opportunity

(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, grant opportunities for the Business Improvement Fund for residential aged care have been extended to 30 April 2021. The fund provides financial assistance to eligible residential aged care providers with limited access to other financial support. There are three streams of grant funding:

  • Business Improvement - supporting a provider to go through a process of business improvement
  • Sale of a Facility - supporting the sale of the residential aged care facility to another provider
  • Closure of a Facility - where no other options exist, supporting the orderly and safe close down of a residential aged care facility.

The fund aims to support small to medium sized providers (generally with less than 7 facilities) that have limited access to financial support that are facing significant financial pressures which may impact on care to residents, or there is a risk of service closure. For more information, and to submit your application form, refer to Grant Opportunity GO3410 on the GrantConnect website.

Applications close at 2:00pm AEST on 30 April 2021.

 

‘I see myself as Switzerland’: new workforce council CEO vows to avoid politics and effect change

According to Aged Care Insite, last January, the various aged care peak bodies announced the formation of an industry group dedicated to leading the sector’s workforce strategy. The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council was recommended by the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce’s report A matter of care – a strategy for Australia’s aged care workforce, and has been charged with enforcing the 14 strategic actions outlined to help build a better trained and better paid workforce for the future. Now more than a year after the announcement, the council has appointed its first CEO, former nurse and senior bureaucrat Louise O’Neill.

 

Legislation

No significant developments this week.

 

Resources and Upcoming Events

Recovery 2020 – free virtual event 12 August 2020, 9am-11am

To mark the beginning of the 2020-21 financial year, Australian Ageing Agenda asked CEO's of aged care organisations about the year ahead. While the coronavirus pandemic is top of mind, so is the ongoing struggle of making ends meet, further compounded by no royal commission outcome until 2021. Industry consensus is that the year ahead is going to be bleak for many providers. But there are exceptions. Some providers have experienced growth in an otherwise disruptive year. For those providers RECOVERY has already begun.

We invite you to participate in this inaugural virtual event and discover which numbers matter from the leading organisations working with providers on the frontline.

Register to attend the event FREE

Presenters include:

  • James Price – Co-founder, Mirus Australia
  • Kane Draper – Sr Client Partner, Health Generation
  • Greg O'Loan – Regional Vice President, Epicor

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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