Infection Control Spot Checks in Residential Aged Care: What Providers Need to Know

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) is stepping up its program of infection control spot checks of residential aged care homes.

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Weekly Wrap: 10 May 2020

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Weekly Wrap: 10 May 2020

Aged care news highlights from the week ending 10 May 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

International Nurses Day

According to the International Council of Nurses, International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. ICN commemorates this important day each year with the production and distribution of the International Nurses' Day (IND) resources and evidence.

For more information on International Nurses Day, also see the website of the Australian College of Nursing.

 

Chief health officer calls for compassion for aged care staff

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, more staff at a Sydney aged care facility have tested positive to coronavirus, prompting the state’s health chief to say maintaining full personal protective equipment can be a challenge in residential aged care. In response to questions about apparent inadequate infection control at the facility, New South Wales chief health officer Dr Chant said it was important not to blame anyone over the staff infections and look at each case individually. “But some of the stories that have been advised to me is when you are managing or caring for someone who might be confused, you have masks on and someone reaches out to you and removes your mask. I would like to call out to aged care workers and the nurses who are working in these facilities and providing care and accept that it is quite challenging to maintain full PPE and interact with the patients,” Dr Chant told the press conference.

 

“The care is just absolutely beautiful”: daughter of Newmarch House praises Anglicare and staff on 7.30 Report

According to The Donaldson Sisters, with 16 residents of Newmarch House – the Western Sydney aged care home at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak – now sadly passed away, it’s easy to believe the negative media stories that the care being provided to those who live in the home must be lacking. So, it was heartening last night to see Louise Payne – whose 89-year-old mother Yvonne is a resident of the home and has tested positive for COVID-19 – defend the staff and operator on the ABC’s 7:30 Report last night.

 

Anglicare forced to appoint external adviser

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, Anglicare Sydney has appointed aged care executive Andrew Kinkade as an independent adviser to its coronavirus-stricken facility in western Sydney following an order from the regulator. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission issued Anglicare Sydney a notice on Wednesday requiring it to appoint an external adviser because of the seriousness of the outbreak and number of deaths at Newmarch House in Caddens and the ongoing risk to residents. Another staff member at the facility tested positive to COVID-19 on Thursday but did not work while infectious, NSW Health reported on Friday.

 

Tasmania to lift tougher aged care restrictions

According to Aged Care Insite, Tasmania will ease a blanket restriction on visits to aged care homes from Monday, bringing the state in line with the mainland. The state government banned all visits to aged care homes in early April, except for compassionate reasons or end-of-life care. Tasmania has now achieved three days in a row with zero cases, but Premier Peter Gutwein said “it is not over yet” and urged Tasmanians to stay home and continue to follow the rules. “[As] we increase our testing, we will find more positive cases,” Gutwein said. Still, the state’s aged care restrictions will be lifted in a week’s time to mirror the mainland.

 

ACSA polling shows people happy with aged care lockdowns, residents speak out

According to Aged Care Insite, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) has released new polling showing that 69 per cent of Australians surveyed support aged care homes limiting visitors in order to protect older Australians from COVID-19, while they say only 10 per cent oppose visitor bans. This comes the week after the sector and the government appeared to have come to an agreement for aged care conduct during the pandemic. “Australia can be proud of our management of COVID-19 but we can’t get blasé about aged care because this is where our most vulnerable people live,” said ACSA chief executive Patricia Sparrow.

 

$200M for providers to cover COVID-related costs

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the Federal Government has announced additional funding to help aged care facilities cover extra expenses during the coronavirus pandemic such as for staff and visitor screening. The $205 million package provides a one-off payment of $900 per resident to metropolitan aged care facilities and $1,350 per resident to their regional counterparts. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the funding package during a press conference on Friday. “The Commonwealth will be putting an additional $205 million into the aged care sector as a one off payment to facilities all around the country to support them in the costs that they are incurring to deal with the COVID-19 crisis in their sector,” Mr Morrison said at the press conference. “This payment is designed to give them that financial support so they can put all those measures in place that will assist with the industry code implementation,” he said.

 

Government and sector come together to settle lockdown dispute

According to Aged Care Insite, the beef between the aged care sector and the government over restrictive measures in the sector looks to have been settled, with the announcement of a draft code of conduct on visitation rights as well as a $205 million bump in emergency funding. Last week the government called out aged care providers who had enforced stricter lockdown protocols than federally mandated. However, the sector’s peak bodies said that harsh restrictions are saving lives, and they placed an ad in the major newspapers calling for an extra $1.3 billion in funding to combat the virus. Now the government plans to finalise an industry code of conduct for the sector that will include mandatory visitation allowances for family members. The coronavirus pandemic has played havoc on an already embattled industry, and the debate about facility lockdowns has rumbled on since the government announced restrictions in mid-March.

 

Some call for a more consumer-focused visitor code

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, many aged care consumer stakeholders have provided their support for a new visitor code for residential aged care facilities but some called for a stronger consumer focus during this week’s consultation. Representatives from consumer organisations Council on the Ageing Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network, National Seniors Australia and Dementia Australia spoke with aged care residents and their families, friends and representatives during a webinar on Wednesday about the draft Aged Care Visitor Access Code released last week. The code developed by consumer and provider peak bodies aims to apply a compassionate and consistent visitor policy across facilities that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission and provides innovative on-site visiting to support the mental health of aged care residents

 

Guide outlines COVID safe aged care workplaces

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the national work health and safety policy body has released new advice by industry to help minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission in the workplace. The guides launched by Safe Work Australia on Tuesday provide detailed guidance for businesses and workers on how to stay safe from coronavirus. They include information on workers’ rights, responsibilities under workplace health and safety laws, cleaning, and mental health. Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter said it was essential to have access to accurate and updated information about how to stay safe in the workplace as restrictions begin to ease. “The SWA website brings together all the information businesses and workers need into one centralised hub, providing users with fast and easy access to detailed guidance that is directly relevant to their specific industry,” Mr Porter said.

 

UK government denies neglecting elderly in care

According to Aged Care Insite, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the situation in care homes has improved, hours after his health minister denied Britain had prioritised hospitals over many elderly people in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak. A Reuters investigation found policies designed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed pushed a greater burden onto care homes which struggled to get access to tests and protective equipment. Asked by a member of the public during a question session on Sky News whether the government had sacrificed the elderly in residential homes to ensure the health service was not overrun, health minister Matt Hancock said: “No we didn’t do this … we have, from the start, worked very hard to protect people in care homes.”

 

Other News

Australians facing chronic pain ‘epidemic’

According to Aged Care Insite, more Australians than ever are seeing their GP for chronic pain, new statistics reveal. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, which looked at data from 2015–16, revealed that one in five – or 1.6 million Australians – aged over 45 lived with persistent, ongoing pain. And between 2006–07 and 2015–16, the rate of GP visits for chronic back pain or unspecific chronic pain increased by 67 per cent. People with chronic pain were more likely to be female and older, and stay longer in hospital. The rates were most acute among people aged over 85, where one in four people were living with chronic pain.

 

Legislation

Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Amendment Regulation 2020 (ACT) – commenced 6.05.20

The Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Amendment Regulation 2020 exempts Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, and public employees of Commonwealth, state or territory entities, from registration under the Working with Vulnerable People scheme, while engaged in ‘regulated activities’ on behalf of the Territory for the purposes of supporting the COVID-19 emergency. A person will be exempt from registration and can engage in regulated activities until the new section 4A inserted by the Regulation expires (12 months from commencement).

 

Resources and Upcoming Events

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.

 

2nd Governance in Aged Care Conference – 20-21 May 2020, Doltone House Hyde Park Sydney (Live Stream Online)

According to Criterion Conferences, the 2nd Governance in Aged Care conference has been developed in partnership with COTA Australia and ACSA to support you to effectively lead and govern your aged care service into the future. You will walk away with a deeper understanding of what good governance structures and culture looks like in practice, and how you could apply this to your own organisation.

 

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.

 

Quality Indicators (QIs) pilot – specific service types invited to participate

The Department of Health has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to assist in the development and pilot to trial the new QIs relating to:

  • medication management
  • falls and fractures.

To ensure the pilot captures the views and experiences of residential aged care services nationally, the department would like to strongly encourage the following services to take part:

  • Services operating in Queensland or remote areas
  • Smaller services (less than 50 residential aged care places)
  • Previous QI Program pilot participants
  • Private (for profit) or State Government services.

Participation in the pilot is an opportunity for your service to trial and provide feedback on these indicators ahead of the implementation of the additional QIs from 1 July 2021. The pilot will commence in February 2020, please register your interest by 27 January 2020.

 

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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