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Updated Coronavirus (COVID-19) information - Residential Aged Care

23 July 2021

Dear Family Member,

This update is in response to the evolving situation with COVID-19.

St Vincent’s Care Services has put some changes into place across all of our residential aged care facilities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

These changes reflect the directions of various State Chief Health Officers under their respective public health legislation (the Directions). We always want to ensure the ongoing health and safety of all our residents, staff and the broader St Vincent's community.

We acknowledge that this is a very difficult time for many people and we will continue to support all of our residents and families during this challenging time. There are certain differences between each state, so please refer to your specific state below for directions.
 

 

Industry code for visiting residential aged care homes during COVID-19

The Visitor Access Codes main themes are:

- If there is a suspected or actual local cluster of COVID-19 in surrounding suburbs, or a suspected/known case of COVID-19 within a residential aged care facility, the site may decide to temporarily increase restrictions on visitors 

- Staff are required to screen visitors, educate visitors about social distancing and hygiene during their visit, but not supervise visits

- No visitor should attend an aged care home if they are unwell or displaying any cold/flu, respiratory or COVID-19 related symptoms 

The latest Visitor Access Code can be found here. The Code will continue to be reviewed and we will provide ongoing updates to keep you across any changes. 

 

Entrance testing

On entry to a St Vincent's Care Services Centre or Hub, you will be asked to complete a Heath Self-declaration Form, and have your temperature taken and other medical measures to determine if you have any influenza-like symptoms that may preclude you from entry. If you’re found to have failed any of the heath self-declarations or have recorded a temperature equal to or higher than 37.5 degrees, then you will not be permitted to enter the site. If you refuse to engage with entrance testing, you will not be permitted to enter the site.

 

Pre-booking your visit

A friendly reminder that social distancing regulations still apply at our facilities, therefore we please ask you to book at least 24 hours in advance of your planned visit as there are still limited visitor spots for each section of our facilities. 

You will receive an SMS reminder with your booking details.

The self-serve booking system can be accessed via this link here.

 

Visitor Age restrictions

Children under the age of 16 years are now able to visit residential aged care facilities.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised that a number of categories of people are considered to be at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with COVID-19. The Government has issued strong advice for these people to be on high alert and avoid high risk areas or COVID-19 hotspots:

  • over 70 years of age;
  • over 65 years of age with a chronic medical condition;
  • an Indigenous Australian over the age of 50 with a chronic medical condition; and
  • somebody with a compromised immune system.


You can read more here.

What has not changed

There will still be limits in place regarding the number of people that can be in a shared communal space at the same time and staff will still need to declare when and where else they have worked outside of SVCS. 

Facilities are still required to participate in asymptomatic testing, and we will continue exclude visitors who are awaiting testing.

 

 

 QLD SPECIFIC UPDATES

With restrictions easing across QLD as of Friday 23rd July 2021, from 6am, visits to aged care facilities will be permitted. However, masks will still be mandatory for the next 7 days as a precautionary measure in accordance with the government mandate.

We know it’s been a challenging time and you’re keen to see your loved ones as soon as possible, however there are still processes in place to keep them safe that we need your help with.

  

To visit your loved ones:

·       Pre-book either via our online booking portal or by calling the Contact Centre on 1800 778 767.

·       Have only 2 people visit at a time, with unlimited time or frequency per day.

·       Try to be on time for your visit so we can ensure COVID-safe visitor numbers.

·       Sign in at the Zipline kiosk as you enter and complete the temperature check and screening questions, ensuring you’ve checked the latest information on hotspots here.

·       Please note QLD has closed their borders to NSW, VIC and SA, so visitors will not be allowed to visit if they have been in these states in the past 14 days unless they have a travel and visitor exemption.

·       AND an additional step – scan the QR code as you enter. The QLD Government has recently mandated the use of QR codes in all QLD aged care homes from Monday 12th July. This means that all staff and visitors will need to sign into the Government QR code, as one more step when signing in via our sign-in kiosk before entering the site.

 

Current visiting hours are to be maintained at our homes due to screening requirements, and visitor numbers will continue to be capped to ensure safe social distancing is practiced. Other directives:

·       Visitors do not have to be from the same household.

·       You must wear a mask and practice social distancing.

·       Prospective residents are allowed to visit.

·       Your loved one is able to leave their home for any reason provided they follow government directives to wear a mask if they can tolerate it and practice social distancing measures.

·       Staff will continue to wear masks for another 7 days.

As always, please do not visit your loved one’s home if you are feeling unwell or have been in close contact with a known COVID positive person or visited a high-risk location.

 

 

NSW SPECIFIC UPDATES

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced that the Greater Sydney lockdown will be extended to 11:59pm on Friday 30 July, due to growing COVID cases within the state. This means ALL St Vincent’s Care Services sites in Greater Sydney will continue to be in restricted access. We will let you know once restrictions have lifted, thank you for your patience and support during this time. You can read more here.

You can also call the Contact Centre to arrange a virtual visit and we encourage you to do so. 

In accordance with public health and aged care directives, residents are not permitted to leave during restricted access except for essential reasons, like healthcare or an emergency. 

 

Haberfield Update

We are delighted to advise that the Public Health Unit has cleared our Haberfield home from any secondary COVID exposure.

This means we have gone back into restricted access as per the NSW Government directives.

 

What does restricted access mean again?

·       Residents can move about freely within their home

·       The dining rooms are open and group activities will resume

·       Residents can leave the facility for medical appointments or for funerals

·       Unfortunately, under the current NSW lockdown directive, visitors are still not permitted (unless in exceptional circumstances).

 

How can I keep in touch with my loved one?

As visits are still not permitted, please call our Contact Centre on 1800 778 767 to arrange a virtual visit. We love being able to connect you with your loved ones.

 

New influenza vaccination guidelines

The New South Wales Government has mandated that from Tuesday 1st June 2021, anyone entering a residential aged care facility in NSW must have a current influenza vaccination. This includes staff, visitors, contractors, and volunteers. You can find further information here.

That means that if you wish to visit your loved one at their home, you will need to have had a flu vaccination prior to your visit from Tuesday 1st June.

Our Residential Aged Care Facilities will require evidence of your flu vaccination prior to, or upon arrival at your loved one’s home. Your vaccination evidence can be supplied one of two ways:

1.      You can upload your vaccination evidence at the time of booking your visit using our online booking portal. Please review the step-by-step instructions here: How visitors can make a booking and upload their vaccination evidence at the same time

2.      You can present an electronic or printed copy of your vaccination evidence upon arrival at your loved one’s home. This can be done through our check-in system using the iPad provided onsite. 

 

NSW Border Changes

Due to the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic, various state governments continue to change their border restrictions, therefore we strongly encourage you to check with your relevant state authority or call us in advance of any planned interstate travel to visit one of our facilities.

For the latest updates on border changes head to - https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/what-you-can-and-cant-do-under-rules/border-restrictions

 

 

VIC SPECIFIC UPDATES

Unfortunately, the Victorian Government and Chief Health Officer have extended the lockdown directive to all Residential Aged Care homes in Victoria for a further 7 days due to ongoing community transmission across the state.

This means that our homes at Eltham, Hawthorn and Werribee will continue to be in restricted access until at least midnight, Tuesday 27th July 2021.

 

Can I visit?

Unfortunately, visitors are still not permitted at St Vincent’s Care Services sites in Victoria. There are some exemptions with visitors allowed for essential care and end-of-life, however this needs to be approved by the Facility Manager. If you feel that you qualify for an exemption visit, please contact the Facility Manager. Approved visitors can only attend if they haven't visited any listed exposure sites, and permitted visitors will be required to wear a surgical mask and to stay in residents’ rooms.

Just to confirm, we do not have a case of COVID-19 at any site. This is just a precautionary measure directed by Victoria Health.

A reminder that during the lockdown, you may only leave your home for:

·       Work that cannot be done from home

·       Food supplies

·       Essential Care for vulnerable people

·       Exercise

·       Vaccinations

and masks must still be worn at all times.

 

How can I contact my family member at the site?

Please call us to arrange a virtual visit on 1800 778 767 – we will happily arrange a Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, telephone chat or group call to keep you in touch with your loved ones.

 

 

Further guidance

Further guidance for families of residents in residential aged care, has been published by the Government and can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-families-and-residents-on-restricted-visits-to-residential-aged-care-facilities

St Vincent's Care Services acknowledges that this is a very difficult time and is conscious of the impact that these Directions have on residents and their loved ones.  These new Directions are legal requirements, made by the Government that we must all follow. More importantly, they are designed to safeguard residents in the care of St Vincent's, which we assure you is our utmost priority.

We request that you respect the new requirements so that we can play our part in ensuring the continued health and safety of our residents, employees and the St Vincent's community.

If you would like to discuss this further please contact the St Vincent’s Care Services COVID-19 support line on 1800 778 767 or svcs.info@svha.org.au.