Today's Special Report on COVID-19 by the Aged Care Royal Commission features the following comments
In the confines of the inquiry we were able to conduct, we have concluded that there are four areas where immediate action can and should be taken to support the aged care sector:
- First, the Australian Government should fund providers to ensure there are adequate staff available to deal with external visitors so that the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 (Visitation Code) can be modified to enable a greater number of more meaningful visits between people receiving care and their loved ones.
- Second, the Australian Government should create Medicare Benefits Schedule items to increase the provision of allied health and mental health services to people living in residential aged care during the pandemic to prevent deterioration in their physical and mental health. Any barriers, whether real or perceived, to allied health and mental health professionals being able to enter residential aged care facilities should be removed unless justified on genuine public health grounds.
- Third, the Australian Government should publish a national aged care plan for COVID-19 and establish a national aged care advisory body.
- Finally, the Australian Government should arrange for the deployment of accredited infection prevention and control experts into residential aged care homes.
The associated recommendations are
The Australian Government should report to Parliament by no later than 1 December 2020 on the implementation of these recommendations.
The Australian Government should immediately fund providers that apply for funding to ensure there are adequate staff available to allow continued visits to people living in residential aged care by their families and friends.
The Australian Government should urgently create Medicare Benefits Schedule items to increase the provision of allied health services, including mental health services, to people in aged care during the pandemic. Any barriers, whether real or perceived, to allied health professionals being able to enter residential aged care facilities should be removed unless justified on genuine public health grounds
The Australian Government should establish a national aged care plan for COVID-19 through the National Cabinet in consultation with the aged care sector. This plan should:
- establish a national aged care advisory body
- establish protocols between the Australian Government and the States and Territories based on the NSW Protocol but having regard to jurisdictional differences
- maximise the ability for people living in aged care homes to have visitors and to maintain their links with family, friends and the community
- establish a mechanism for consultation with the aged care sector about use of Hospital in the Home programs in residential aged care
- establish protocols on who will decide about transfers to hospital of COVID-19 positive residents, having regard to the protocol proposed by Aged and Community Services Australia
- ensure that significant outbreaks in facilities are investigated by an independent expert to identify lessons that can be learnt. The results of any such investigations should be promptly disseminated to the sector.
All residential aged care homes should have one or more trained infection control officers as a condition of accreditation. The training requirements for these officers should be set by the aged care advisory body we propose.
The Australian Government should arrange with the States and Territories to deploy accredited infection prevention and control experts into residential aged care homes to provide training, assist with the preparation of outbreak management plans and assist with outbreaks.