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: 11 October 2020

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Weekly Wrap: 11 October 2020

Aged care news highlights from the week ending 11 October 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 Budget delivers $1.6 billion for 23,000 new Home Care Packages – but residential care to wait another seven months for any funding relief

According to The Weekly Source, treasurer Josh Frydenberg has handed down the Morrison Government’s 2020-21 Budget – after a five-month delay due to COVID – but aged care appears to have been shuffled to the back of the queue as Australia’s economic recovery takes precedence. In total, Mr Frydenberg announced another $2 billion over four years for the additional HCPs plus funding for measures to improve transparency and regulatory standards – both issues highlighted by the Royal Commission in its recent hearings.

What is clear however is that there is little immediate funding relief for the residential care sector. The Budget notes that the Government has already outlaid $1.6 billion since February to support the sector during the pandemic – and more funding will be forthcoming once the Royal Commission delivers its Final Report in February 2021.

 

Budget 2020-21: the sector reacts

According to Aged Care Insite, the coronavirus pandemic and aged care were two of the big ticket items in last night’s Budget. One of the aged care centrepieces was $1.6 billion for 23,000 additional home care packages. There was also $81 million for additional surge workforce and increased training for aged care workers on top of the funding announced in March.

But Aged and Community Services Australia called the funding a “drop in the bucket” of what is required to set up the sector for the next decade. “The home care injection is unprecedented and welcome. This is good bang for the buck, however, there will still be thousands of people waiting for the right level of support or any support at all,” chief executive Patricia Sparrow said. “Measures that allow us to hire young people are good but we need more permanent measures given aged care has to triple our workforce by 2050.”

 

Federal Budget 2020-21

(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, an additional $746.3 million was announced at the 2020-21 Federal Budget to support the aged care sector’s response to COVID-19. This includes extending the COVID-19 support payment as part of a $245 million package. Under this funding, trained infection control officers will be required, responding to the recommendation of the Aged Care Royal Commission COVID-19: a special report.

The 30 per cent increase in the viability supplement to assist providers in rural and remote areas and the residential care homeless supplement have also been extended for a further six months as part of this measure.

Read the government's full Budget fact sheet on the Aged Care COVID-19 pandemic response.

You can also view the broader collection of fact sheets on the 2020-21 Federal Budget measures for the aged care sector including measures that are not COVID related.

 

COVID-19 monitoring system being adapted for residential care

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, a remote monitoring system originally designed to monitor patients tested positive for COVID-19 in their homes has the potential to be applied in residential care. The remote system was developed by Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, the National Trauma Research Institute and Alfred Health. It has been successfully tested in home settings through Alfred Health and Monash Health. It allows nurses to monitor the health of positively tested COVID-19 patients in home isolation, with senior clinician oversight to facilitate care and review. It’s now being modified to provide solutions for residential aged care, said Rena Logothetis, associate research fellow at Deakin University.

 

Royal commission puts government on notice, wants action on aged care, now

According to Aged Care Insite, the aged care royal commission has handed down its COVID-19 report and the message to Scott Morrison and his government is clear: act fast, act now. The report, Aged Care and COVID-19: a special report, outlines four areas that need immediate action and six recommendations overall, the first of which is that “the Australian Government report to the Australian Parliament no later than 1 December 2020 on the progress of their implementation”. The first area of urgent attention is, unsurprisingly, funding. The commissioners call for the government to provide funding to providers so that there are “adequate staff available” to deal with the increased workloads brought on by the pandemic.

 

Updated directives from Queensland 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, Queensland Health has written to aged care providers and issued Directive No.11 covering residential aged care facilities. Health workers who wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow recommended infection control precautions are not considered ‘known contacts’ of confirmed COVID-19 cases for the purposes of entry to a residential aged care facility.

Also, people who have been in the New South Wales border zone are allowed to visit loved ones in residential aged care facilities. Residents can have up to two visitors at one time, and there is no limit on the number of visitors a resident can have in any one day. Residents can also leave their care facility for a range of reasons.

This Directive replaces the former Aged Care Direction (No. 10) made on 11 September 2020.

 

Reminder: Additional PPE for Victorian 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.)

The Department of Health has issued a reminder that the Government is providing extra P2/N95 respirator masks for residential aged care facilities across Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire to ensure the continued delivery of safe care.

All facilities in these areas will be able to request P2/N95 respirator masks using a one-off request form. Requests must be submitted by 30 October 2020.

If additional PPE is required and it cannot be sourced through your usual means, you can submit a request to the National Medical Stockpile through the usual online PPE form. Applications for additional PPE will be prioritised and distributed to aged care facilities that are most in need.

 

DHHS resources for Victorian 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, Aged Care providers in Victoria are encouraged to ensure they are familiar with the latest advice published on the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website that relates to the aged care sector and COVID-19.

The information includes advice on visitations, screening, personal protective equipment, and admissions as well as the state’s COVID-19 plan for residential aged care facilities. The DHHS site also links to webinars and other useful resources for aged care services.

 

Latest COVID-19 data update for aged care 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, the Department of Health is continuing to publish a weekly national data snapshot of COVID-19 outbreaks in residential aged care facilities across the country. The latest data snapshot, shows that of the 217 residential aged care facilities that have had a case(s) of COVID-19. Of these, 96 facilities or 44 per cent have a single case of COVID-19 case. Other international comparisons and data points can be found in the weekly report.

 

LASA National Congress to consider 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, Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) National Congress is on next week, and kicks off with a full day focus on COVID-19 and Aged Care. They will be discussing COVID-normal in the sector, considering international learnings, and Dr Norman Swan will discuss how the virus will change the future of the industry. For more information and to register visit LASA’s Ten Days of Congress.

 

Aged care project investigating COVID’s impact on wellbeing

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, a national study involving a consortium of researchers is exploring the impact COVID-19 is having on the mental health of residents and staff at Australia’s 2,700 aged care homes. The study, which will be conducted through an online survey, will also investigate which COVID-19-related factors are having the greatest impact as well as what mental health support is needed for this cohort. The project, which involves researchers from Swinburne University, Mental Health Australia, the National Australian Research Institute, Queensland University and Macquarie University, is seeking input from residential aged care facility managers, clinical care coordinators and lifestyle team leaders.

 

Aged care COVID class action in court

According to Aged Care Insite, a judge has flagged issues involving a lawsuit against a Melbourne nursing home where nearly 40 people have died. Sebestian Angello is leading the civil claim against Heritage Care, which owns the Epping Gardens Aged Care home where his 92-year-old mother, Carmela, lived before she died on July 28. The class action brought by personal injury firm Carbone Lawyers alleges Epping Gardens breached its duty of care by allowing staff to not wear protective equipment and move freely throughout the home. A statement of claim filed in Victoria’s Supreme Court said staff from other aged care homes were allowed into Epping Gardens without self-isolating.

 

Inquiry hears about ‘eye-watering’ surge workforce contracts

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the federal government has spent less than a third of the $101 million allocated to provide a temporary surge workforce for aged care providers, but that’s included some ‘eye-watering’ tenders, a Senate inquiry has heard. The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 held a public hearing on 29 September into the aged care sector’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The inquiry heard that only $31,624 million of government funding has been spent on providing a surge workforce to assist aged care providers who have lost staff as a result of COVID-19. This is from a $101.2 million funding package that was announced in March, which aimed to help providers to access training, additional staff and in-facility testing for coronavirus and flu.

 

VACRC PPE donning and doffing posters

(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 has published new posters to assist aged care workers with correctly donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Aged care providers in Victoria are encouraged to print and display these posters, which show how to correctly put on and take off PPE when entering or leaving areas with confirmed cases (red zones), suspected cases (amber zones) or no cases (green zones).

 

Other News

Less than 10 per cent of residents eating main meal, study shows

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, aged care residents are not eating the recommended serving sizes and are therefore are not receiving adequate nutrients, according to a new study. The Monash University research investigated the weight of foods served and consumed compared to the recommended serving size based on core food groups. It also compared energy and protein intake with individual requirements. The research involved 420 residents across four residential aged care facilities in Melbourne and found the nutritional needs of residents are not being, said lead researcher Lisa Sossen, a PhD student at Monash University. “The menus might be acceptable and provide the nutrition, but the needs are not actually met by consumption because they’re not eating enough of the food,” Ms Sossen told Australian Ageing Agenda.

 

Aged-care residents that are served more, eat more

According to Hospital and Healthcare, researchers at the University of South Australia (UniSA) have discovered a simple way for aged-care residents to improve their nutrition intake: increase their meal sizes. The research team assessed the effectiveness of environmental cues within an aged-care home — music, fragrance and other health information — discovering that if residents were offered larger meals, they would eat more, thereby increasing energy and nutrition levels. The findings are published in the Australasian Marketing Journal.

 

Reminder: Translated resources available

(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, a reminder to all aged care providers that a series of translated resources are available on the Department’s website. We encourage you to access these resources, and where appropriate ensure that you share these translations with your workforce and aged care service users. Aged care providers are reminded that translated versions of the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Facilities are also available.

 

Listed providers not immune from industry challenges

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, an analysis of the financial performance of three listed aged care providers reflects the difficulties facing the sector as a whole, an industry professional tells Australian Ageing Agenda. The StewartBrown Listed Aged Care Providers Financial Performance Analysis released this week analyses the financial results of listed aged care providers Regis Aged Care, Estia Health and Japara Healthcare for the 12-month period ended 30 June 2020. The analysis shows that while all three listed providers reported an increase in operating revenue and places for the year ending June 2020, growth is slowing compared to previous years.

 

Legislation

Public Health (Further Extension of Declared Public Health Emergency—COVID-19) Regulation (No. 5) 2020 (No. 249 of 2020) (QLD) – commences 2/10/20

The objective of the Public Health (Further Extension of Declared Public Health Emergency— COVID-19) Regulation (No.5) 2020 (the Regulation) is to extend the period of the declared public health emergency to ensure the Queensland Government can continue to respond to any outbreak of COVID-19 in Queensland and to allow for emergency powers to be used to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in Queensland. Chapter 8 of the Public Health Act 2005 deals with public health emergencies.

Under section 319 of the Act, the Minister may declare a public health emergency by a signed written order. The public health emergency takes effect from its declaration by the Minister. A declared public health emergency activates a range of powers and functions under chapter 8 of the Act.

For example, emergency officers have wide ranging powers under chapter 8 to assist in responding to a public health emergency, including powers of entry and a range of powers to compel persons to do or refrain from certain activities. Emergency officers (medical) have additional powers relating to the detention of persons.

 

Criminal Code and Other Legislation (Wage Theft) Amendment Act 2020 (No. 34 of 2020) (QLD) – Act assented to 14/09/20

The Queensland Parliamentary Education, Employment and Small Business Committee (the Committee) conducted an inquiry into wage theft in Queensland and tabled its report A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work? Exposing the true cost of wage theft in Queensland (the Report) on 16 November 2018.

The Committee found that wage theft is endemic across Queensland, affecting 437,000 workers and costing them approximately $1.22 billion in wages and $1.12 billion in unpaid superannuation each year. The Committee heard accounts of wage theft as well as deliberate action by employers to frustrate employees’ attempts to recover their entitlements.

The Committee found affected workers, especially temporary migrants and young people, are poorly informed about avenues for reclaiming their wages, and that efforts to recover wages were made difficult or otherwise were unsupported by an under-resourced federal regulator, the Fair Work Ombudsman. Concerns were raised of employers engaging in wage theft to lower their operating costs, increase profits and gain advantage over competitors with little fear of being caught. In some instances, the conduct of employers ‘...was of such a systemic nature it was included in the employers’ business model’. In addition to exploiting workers, these practices harm businesses complying with legislative requirements by driving down prices impacting competition.

The Act achieves its objective of implementing the underlying policy intent of recommendations 8 and 15 of the Report by:

(i) enabling the prosecution of wage theft as stealing under the Criminal Code;

(ii) increasing the maximum penalties in the Criminal Code for the offences of stealing and fraud relating to wage theft; and

(iii) facilitating the Industrial Magistrates Court's jurisdiction for wage recovery matters, including the small claims wage recovery procedure for matters of not more than $20,000 under section 548 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cwth) (FW ACT).

 

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.

 

Clinical Governance in Aged Care Conference – online 28 and 28 October 2020

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the Clinical Governance in Aged Care conference is taking place on 28th & 29th October 2020 via live stream and will support you with the knowledge and practical insights to improve safety, accountability and compliance. You'll learn strategies to help you deliver improved outcomes as an aged care provider for your customers through the pandemic and beyond.

 

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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