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

24 February 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.

 

General updates for all states

As you may be aware, the Australian Government has temporarily suspended the current ‘travel bubble’ arrangements between New Zealand and Australia. This is a precautionary approach in response to the discovery of community exposure in New Zealand.  

This means anyone who has arrived in Australia from New Zealand from Thursday, 14th January 2021, is not permitted in any our homes, instead they should get tested and isolate until a negative result is returned and the restrictions have been lifted. 

Exceptions may be granted for extenuating circumstances on a case-by-case basis and in line with the relevant state guidelines.   

 
If you have been a close contact of anyone that has arrived in Australia from New Zealand since 14 January onwards, please get tested and delay visiting your loved one at their home until you receive a negative result and the restrictions have been lifted. 

 

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

Some parts of Western Australia and Greater Melbourne have now been declared as a COVID-19 hotspot. This means the below precautions have been put in place and must be adhered to: 

 

  •  Anyone who arrives in Queensland from Metropolitan Perth, Peel, or the South West regions of Western Australia from 7:55pm AEST 31 January 2021, must quarantine in government arranged accommodation at their own expense. 
  •  Anyone who is already in Queensland that has been in Metropolitan Perth, Peel, or the South West regions of Western Australia since 1am AEST 25 January 2021 should get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result. 
  •  Anyone entering Queensland who has been in any part of Western Australia in the 14 days prior to arriving in Queensland will be required to complete a Queensland Border Declaration Pass. 
  • Anyone who has been in Greater Melbourne since Friday 29 January and arrived in Queensland, must get tested and self-isolate until returning a negative test result.
  • Anyone who is already in Queensland that has been to a Victorian hotspot or venue of concern should isolate for 14 days as advised by both the Victorian and Queensland Governments. If you have been to any of the Victorian venues listed, the Queensland Government is urging you to call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately.  

 For more information, please visit the Queensland Health website.  

 

Visitor Restrictions

 Aged Care sites are now deemed low risk which means visitors are allowed back in facilities under the following conditions: 

 

  • Visits to see your loved one must be pre-booked either via our online booking portal or by calling the contact centre on 1800 778 767.
  • Current visiting hours are to be maintained at our homes due to screening requirements.
  • Visitor numbers will continue to be capped at your loved one's home to ensure safe social distancing is practiced. 
  • Your loved one can now have two people visit at a time, with unlimited time or frequency per day.
  • You do not live in or have not visited areas of concern in Perth or Greater Melbourne.

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.  

 To find your closest COVID-19 testing clinic, please follow this link to the QLD Government website. Test results should be returned within 24 hours, so we appreciate your patience and understanding during this time to keep your loved ones safe.  

 

QLD 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.

From 1am AEST Monday, 21 December 2020 the QLD border is closed to anyone who has been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days or since the hotspot was declared (whichever is shorter). We understand this is a difficult time to not be able to connect with your loved ones. Please call us to arrange a virtual visit on 1800 778 767– the staff will happily arrange a Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, telephone chat or group call to keep you in touch with your loved ones.

We appreciate that some families have exceptional circumstances that may not meet the current restrictions in place, and we encourage you to call us so we can work out an alternative solution for you.

 

Resident leave

Residents of our Queensland Aged Care facilities can leave their facility for several reasons including:

  • family gatherings
  • exercise
  • visiting a service provider such as hairdressers
  • health services
  • visiting another aged care facility
  • attending a funeral

Residents are to make arrangements for leave with the onsite staff to ensure all safety procedures are followed.

 

Bus trips and outings

Bus trips for aged care residents living in QLD have recommenced. Safety measures will still be adhered to and for bus trips less than an hour, full seating capacity is now permitted.

All residents and staff going on the bus must: 

  • be well and screened (temperature and symptom check) prior to boarding the bus
  • use hand sanitiser before boarding the bus
  • Masks are optional
  • maintain physical distancing if able
  • use hand sanitiser after leaving the bus
  • have temperature taken and be checked for any symptoms on return 

 

NSW SPECIFIC UPDATES 

There are currently no hotspots or areas of concern in NSW, which means visitor restrictions at our Auburn facility have now been lifted.  

However, additional venues have been added to the close and casual contact lists as detailed below: 

Close contacts 
If you have been to the following locations at the dates and times listed, you are required to get tested immediately and self-isolate for 14 days: 

  • Headlands Hotel Austinmer Beach, between 1pm and 3pm, Tuesday 2 February 2021 
  • Bulli Beach café, between 1:30pm and 4pm, Saturday 6 February 2021 

Casual contacts  
If you have been to the following locations, at the dates and times listed you are required to get tested immediately and self-isolate until you receive a negative result:

  • Officeworks Fairy Meadow, between 3:45pm and 4:05pm, Thursday 4 February AND 2:10pm and 3:10pm, Friday 5 February 2021 
  • Optus North Wollongong, between 1pm and 1:15pm, Thursday 4 February 2021 

If you have been to any of the above locations at the dates and times listed, we urge you to please get tested, self-isolate and refrain from visiting your loved one at their home.  

 

Visitor Restrictions 

You can pre-book 2 visitors at a time, with 2 separate visits totaling 4 people per day per resident, using our self-serve booking system. If you have different visitor requirements that the online booking system does not support, please do not hesitate to call the Contact Centre on 1800 778 767 to discuss your individual circumstances, so we can help arrange these for you in advance of your visit.    

To book your visit please follow the link to our online booking portal, alternatively please call our contact centre on 1800 778 767. 

The following restrictions apply when visiting your loved one at their home: 

  • You are no longer required to wear a mask when visiting your loved one. Staff are also no longer required to wear masks; however, we will continue to wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment when caring for any resident suspected of having COVID-19 and awaiting a test result as a precaution. 
  • Residents can have 2 visitors at a time, with 2 separate visits totaling 4 people per day per resident unless in extenuating circumstances.
  • Residents can leave the facility for any reason but should practice social distancing.

Remember our online booking system is in place for all facilities and we ask that visits are pre-booked. To book your visit, please follow the link to our online booking portal, alternatively, please call our contact centre on 1800 778 767. 

 

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

The Victorian Government has declared a state-wide lock down as of 11:59pm Friday 12 February until 11:59pm Wednesday 17 February 2021.

Visitor Restrictions

As part of stage 4 restrictions the Government has advised that NO visitors will be permitted into aged care facilities, except for end-of life-circumstances. In addition to this, all-non-essential contractors are restricted from the homes until further notice.  

Therefore, effective from 11.59pm Friday 12 February, all visits will be cancelled in line with the Government’s Stage 4 restrictions. If you do attend the facility for end-of -life circumstances, you will be required to wear a surgical mask and practice social distancing. Visitors who have been to any locations at the same time as a COVID-19 case will be excluded for a period of 14-days.

All our staff will be wearing surgical masks whilst in the facility and practicing social distancing where possible whilst caring for your loved one.   

Other key changes to restrictions for the general public include:   

  • Stay home unless you are an essential worker, shopping for necessary items, caregiving or engaging in exercise (2 hours per day)  
  • Face masks must be worn at all times both indoor and outdoors unless you are in your home 
  • Public and private gatherings are not permitted including weddings 
  • Funerals are permitted with a maximum of 10 people in attendance 
  • You cannot travel more than 5kms from your primary residence 

A full list of stage 4 restrictions can be found here.  

 

Connecting virtually

We understand this is a difficult time to not be able to connect with your loved ones. Please call us to arrange a virtual visit on 1800 560 743 – the staff will happily arrange a Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, telephone chat or group call to keep you in touch with your loved ones.

We appreciate that some families have exceptional circumstances that may not meet the current restrictions in place, and we encourage you to call us so we can work out an alternative solution for you.

 

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.