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Winter Plan: A Quick Summary for Residential Aged Care Providers

26/07/22
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The Department of Health recently issued the July-September 2022 Winter Plan – A Guide for Residential Aged Care Providers. The plan is full of useful information for providers, but it is a long and complex document that is not easy to navigate. So today we’ve summarised the key points.

 

What is the Winter Plan?

The Winter Plan is a guide that supports aged care providers’ readiness, response and recovery from cases and outbreaks of COVID-19 and/or influenza during winter 2022. The guide provides advice, checklists and links to further resources.

 

Structure of the Winter Plan

The Plan sets out a framework that providers can use to prepare for, and respond to, cases and outbreaks. This framework has three phases:

  • Readiness
  • Response
  • Recovery and Resilience.

According to the Winter Plan, these three phases are not always linear. When taking action, providers may have to move back and forth between the phases. Refer to page 6 of the Winter Plan for a useful table that explains how the three phases interact.

 

Readiness

Take steps ahead of time to ensure that if an outbreak occurs, you can manage it effectively while continuing to deliver safe and quality care.

 

Key Actions

  • Assess the risks in your facility: consider the layout of your facility, vaccinations rates and staffing ratios.
  • Ensure you have an up-to-date outbreak management plan.
  • Identify who is responsible for different elements of a response.
  • Ensure that staff have been appropriately trained in relation to Infection Prevention and Control (IPC).
  • Stress-test plans through a series of scenario-based activities tailored to your circumstances.
  • Ensure that you have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essential supplies (e.g., Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits and oral antivirals).
  • Plan how you will replenish supplies during and post-outbreak.
  • Ensure appropriate workforce management planning has been undertaken (for business continuity and continuity of care).
  • Plan how to communicate the occurrence of an outbreak with staff, government, consumers and their families and other stakeholders.
  • Ensure that consumers have been given the chance to allocate a Partner in Care.
  • Identify immediate actions that must be undertaken in the event of an outbreak.
  • Establish links with local primary care clinicians and ensure that these clinicians are available to assess respiratory symptoms and refer for pathology testing as required.
  • Stay up to date: consider subscribing to Department of Health newsletters, updates from your state/territory Department of Health and ACE’s Weekly Wrap.

 

Resources

 

Response

Work with state/territory and Commonwealth governments to ensure a proportionate and least-restrictive

response which minimises potential detrimental impacts on consumers.

 

Key Actions

  • Identify outbreak/exposure: monitor for symptoms, test where necessary.
  • Implement Outbreak Management Plan.
  • Inform local public health unit or other relevant authorities to determine what IPC requirements need to be followed on site.
  • Identify relevant work permissions and restrictions and adjust rosters where required. Consider:
  • restricting staff from working at secondary aged care homes or locations
  • limiting staff to particular wards and/or residents for the duration of the outbreak
  • extending shift times to extend the limited workforce across the full roster whilst staff are furloughed
  • utilising furloughed staff for corporate, communication or other functions
  • applying the least restrictive isolation requirements on consumers and make sure that all consumers have access to at least one “Essential Visitor” (this may be their Partner in Care and/or a volunteer).

 

Resources

 

Recovery and Resilience

Reflect on your response to the outbreak, make improvements, and assist staff and consumers to receive support and respite.

 

Key Actions

  • Assess current level of care and address any gaps.
  • Assess current physical and emotional wellbeing of consumers and consider how to address any deterioration in the consumer’s condition that may have occurred during lockdown.
  • Manage the return of any staff who were unable to work at the home during the outbreak, ensuring that they are permitted to return in accordance with public health orders.
  • Manage the return of any consumers who were absent from the home during the outbreak.
  • Identify any additional costs incurred in the management of the outbreak and consider seeking reimbursement through the Aged Care Support Extension Grant if eligible.
  • After the outbreak is declared to be over, debrief internally to discuss what can be improved. Also arrange for management to consult with the local public health unit or other relevant authority to debrief.

 

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About the Author

Mark Bryan

Mark is a Legal Content Consultant at CompliSpace and the editor for Aged Care Essentials (ACE). Mark has worked as a Legal Policy Officer for the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and the NSW Department of Justice. He also spent three years as lead editor for the private sessions narratives team at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Arts/Law from the Australian National University with First Class Honours in Law, a Graduate Diploma in Writing from UTS and a Graduate Certificate in Film Directing from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

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