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

27 May 2020

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). Apart from some slight jurisdictional differences, each Direction is broadly similar and St Vincent’s Care Services has chosen to apply these changes consistently to all of our services across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. This decision has been made in order to ensure the ongoing health and safety of all our residents and staff and the broader in the 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. 

 

Who can attend the facility?

The following people only, are permitted to visit our facilities:

  • employees and contractors engaged by St Vincent's, including persons engaged for the provision of goods and services, either on a voluntary or paid basis;
  • persons providing health, medical or pharmaceutical services to a resident, either on a voluntary or paid basis, such as general practitioners or allied health workers;
  • the resident's family members, friends and others who may visit, provided that this is for the purpose of a care and support visit;
  • persons providing end of life support to the resident;
  • persons who attend on the residential aged care facility for emergency management or law enforcement purposes; or persons where required for the exercise of a power or function of a government agency or entity under a law; or
  • prospective residents of the residential aged care facility.

 

All other general visitors are excluded from the Residential Aged Care Facility 

 

Regardless of whether a person is included in the above categories, they will not be permitted to enter or remain upon the premises of a St Vincent's Care Services residential aged care facility if:

  •  during the 14 days prior to the entry the person arrived in Australia from a place outside Australia; or
  • during the 14 days prior to the entry the person travelled from interstate unless special compensation / clearance has been provided by the Public Health Unit; or
  • during the 14 days prior to the entry the person had known contact with a person who has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19; or
  •  staff who are working at other sites or services with confirmed COVID-19 cases; or
  • the person has a temperature equal to or higher than 37.5 degrees or any (even mild) symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath); or
  •  the person does not have an up to date vaccination against influenza, and no genuine medical reason for not being able to receive such a vaccination; or
  • the person is under the age of 16 years, unless that person is visiting the facility for the purposes of end of life support for the resident.

 

Travelling across the border to visit a resident in aged care

In Queensland, the Direction outlines a permitted purpose is to provide assistance, care or support to an immediate family member or to visit a terminally ill family.  The person/s cannot have been at any hotspots nor out of Australia in the last 14 days, they must travel by land and practice social distancing. If they meet entry criteria for residential aged care then they will not need to self-quarantine. 

They will need to apply for and be granted a Queensland Entry Pass. Here is the link: https://www.qld.gov.au/border-pass

There is no new Direction for NSW and VIC but the same process applies.

 

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

The Government has now finalised the visitation code for residential aged care, which prioritises access to loved ones, while ensuring the protection of their health remains a priority. The Aged Care Visitor Access Code sets out a nationally consistent approach to maintaining residents’ visitation and communication.  

You can read the full code here.  


Care and support visits

 According to the government, residents are allowed to have ‘care and support’ visits. This means that a resident’s family members, friends and others may visit, provided it is for the purpose of care and support. We have removed the ‘two people from one household’ ruling when it comes to visitations. We will now allow two people to visit, from any household, for two hours, per day with a resident. We ask that you reconsider if you need to arrange a visit at this point in time. If you are seeing a resident for a social visit and they are safe and well, please consider connecting via video call instead.  

 

Influenza vaccination

From 1 May 2020, all staff, contractors and volunteers must have an up-to-date influenza vaccination to be permitted to enter and remain upon the premises of a residential aged care facility. This is a requirement of the Directions to prevent those who are not vaccinated from entering, and remaining at facilities, except where exemptions to the Directions apply.

Documented evidence of the vaccination is required to be provided and recorded.

 

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.

 

Resident leave

A resident will not be permitted to leave a St Vincent's residential aged care facility unless to access health care, to attend a funeral, in the case of an emergency or on compassionate grounds. If a resident does leave the facility for the above reasons, when they return to the facility, they must isolate for 14 days upon return and be cared for with appropriate PPE (for a suspected case). Under the new Directives, respite residents do not officially reside in a facility therefore, are permitted to leave the facility to be discharged back into the community.

If they are absent from the facility for less than two hours such as for a medical appointment, then they won't need to isolate. 

 

Time limits

If you’re permitted to visit a resident at a St Vincent's Care Services residential aged care facility, then this will be for the purpose of providing care and support or end of life care. We have removed the ‘two people from one household’ ruling when it comes to visitations. We will now allow two people to visit, from any household, for two hours, per day with a resident.

 

Age restrictions

Under 16 years: All visitors to residential aged care services, under the age of 16, are not permitted, unless they are visiting for the purpose of end of life support for a resident.


On top of this, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advised that a number of categories of employees 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 self-isolate. The latest advice released by the National Cabinet is that Australians should self-isolate at home to the maximum extent practicable if they are:

  •  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.

We ask everyone to please not visit if you don't have to. This will limit our resident's exposure to COVID-19, and keep our communities safe. 

You can read more here. 


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/sites/default/files/documents/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-families-and-residents-on-restricted-visits-to-residential-aged-care-facilities_0.docx

St Vincent's Care Services acknowledges that this is a very difficult time and is cognisant 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, theare 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 518 130 or 
svcs.info@svha.org.au.


Yours Sincerely,


The St Vincent’s Care Service Team