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Protecting aged care residents

Aged Care Direction (No. 24)

What’s changed from 20 February 2021

  • The previously listed 31 Greater Melbourne Local Government Areas of concern have been removed. You may now enter residential aged care facilities if you have been in one of these areas between 29 January 2021 and 6 February 2021 and meet all other visitor requirements.
    • You cannot enter a residential aged care facility if you have been in a hotspot in the last 14 days or since the hotspot was declared (whichever is shorter).

Overview

Visitors, staff or volunteers at a residential aged care facility should not be anyone who:

  • is unwell
  • has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or asked to quarantine
  • has returned from overseas in the last 14 days (excluding safe travel zone countries)
  • has had contact with a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • has visited a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days or since the hotspot was declared (whichever is shorter)
  • has been tested for COVID-19 and is waiting for the result (except for tests due to surveillance testing obligations)
  • has COVID-19 symptoms of fever (37.5 degrees or more), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, runny nose, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or fatigue

You may enter a residential aged care facility if you do not fit into any of the above categories.

Visitors should:

  • wash their hands before entering and leaving the facility
  • stay 1.5 metres away from others where possible
  • follow requests from the facility to help keep staff and residents safe.

A resident of an aged care facility can leave their aged care facility for reasons including: excursions, exercise, famly gatherings, to receive health care, to receive end of life or palliative care, visit another residential aged care facility, visit a service provider or attend a funeral.

For full details read the Aged Care Direction (No. 24).

Questions and Answers about this Direction

What Local Government Areas are restricted?

There are currently no Local Government Areas where increased restrictions apply to residential aged care facilities in Queensland.

Certain restrictions continue to apply to residential aged care facilities under the Aged Care Direction.

Questions about visiting a non-restricted Queensland residential aged care facility

Who can visit a residential aged care facility?

Visitors, staff or volunteers should not be anyone who:

  • is unwell
  • has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or asked to quarantine
  • has returned from overseas in the last 14 days (excluding safe travel zone countries)
  • has had contact with a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • has visited a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days or since the hotspot was declared (whichever is shorter)
  • has been tested for COVID-19 and is waiting for the result (except for tests due to surveillance testing obligations)
  • has COVID-19 symptoms (Opens in new window) of fever (37.5 degrees or more), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, runny nose, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or fatigue

Can I have physical contact with my family member when I visit them in a residential aged care facility?

If you are permitted to visit a residential aged care facility, please practice physical distancing where possible. It is particularly important that visitors ensure physical distancing when they are in communal areas or in proximity to other residents or staff members. We can all do our bit to help protect this vulnerable group, while ensuring residents stay connected with their loved ones.

Can I visit someone who is near their end of life in a residential aged care facility if I have been in a hotspot or overseas in the last 14 days?

Visitors can enter a facility if they have been in a safe travel zone country in the past 14 days. Visitors who have been in any other overseas destination must be granted an exemption by the Chief Health Officer.

Anyone who has been:

  • in a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days or since the hotspot was declared (whichever is shorter); or
  • overseas in the last 14 days

must be granted an exemption by the Chief Health Officer. This applies to both restricted and non-restricted facilities. You must comply with all the conditions given under the exemption.

The residential aged care facility must also take reasonable steps to manage your visit in line with the conditions of the exemption. For example, this could mean:

  • that the operator needs to ensure the resident you are visiting is in a single room
  • that you wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • that you are escorted to and from the room
  • that you avoid common areas and contact with other residents.

To apply for an exemption for an end of life visit, complete the form online using the COVID-19 Services Portal. Call 134 COVID (13 42 68) if you need help making your application.

How can we support our loved ones if we are unable to visit them?

It’s important to stay connected with residents. If you are unable to visit your loved ones for any reason, you can keep in touch by:

  • phone calls
  • video calls
  • sending letters and postcards
  • sending artwork
  • sending home videos.

What should I do when I enter a residential aged care facility not located in a restricted local government area to work, volunteer or visit?

You should:

  • stay in the resident’s room, outside or in a specified area
  • avoid communal spaces
  • wash your hands before entering and leaving the facility
  • stay 1.5 metres away from residents where possible
  • stay away when unwell.

Does the Aged Care Direction replace or amend any requirements under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth)?

The Commonwealth is responsible for regulating and funding aged care under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth).

The requirements set out in the Aged Care Direction are intended to operate in addition to any existing requirements under the Aged Care Act, including any related subordinate legislation.

To the extent of any inconsistency between the Aged Care Direction and a requirement under the Aged Care Act, the Act applies or prevails.

My loved one has dementia and doesn’t understand what’s happening.

Talk to the residential aged care facility and discuss ways you can safely support your loved one.

What happens if there is a spike of COVID-19 cases in the community?

If there is a spike in cases in the community, the residential aged care facility may need to limit when residents may leave the facility and restrict visitors to the facility. These measures will be needed to protect the health of our most vulnerable.

Questions about close contacts

Who is considered a known or close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case?

The Aged Care Direction states that a person must not enter a residential aged care facility if they have had known contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Your local public health unit will tell you if you have been deemed a close contact of someone who has COVID-19. They may direct you to quarantine in provided accommodation, or your own residence for 14 days. If you get sick with any COVID-19 symptoms during that period, even mild, get tested immediately.

Close contacts are people who have had face-to-face contact with a confirmed or probable case for more than 15 minutes in total over the course of a week. For example, having three chats of five minutes each over seven days is considered 15 minutes total contact.

Close contacts are also people who have shared an enclosed space with a confirmed or probable case for more than two hours.

This contact period is counted from 48 hours before the start of the person’s symptoms.

Are healthcare workers considered to be known or close contacts?

The Aged Care Direction states that a person must not enter a residential aged care facility if they have had known contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Residential aged care workers or healthcare workers or practitioners providing health or medical care may provide care for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. These workers are not considered known contacts for the purposes of the Direction where they have been wearing appropriate PPE (PDF) and followed recommended infection control precautions.

Questions about staff

What happens if I have to work across multiple care facilities? If I am casual staff, will I lose my job?

Casual staff will not lose their jobs. It is recommended that residential aged care facilities try to limit staff working across multiple care facilities wherever possible. This is to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 across facilities with vulnerable Queenslanders. If staff do work across multiple care facilities, you must:

What are care facilities?

Care facilities include but are not limited to hospitals, retirement villages, residential aged care facilities and distinct sections of a facility providing multiple types of care such as a Multi-Purpose Health Service.

What happens if a residential aged care facility is short-staffed?

In the event of a critical workforce shortage, residential aged care facility operators must notify the local Health Emergency Operations Centre for notification purposes to support Queensland Health’s COVID-19 response. As part of the notification process, operators should also advise what their baseline staffing levels are, including skills mix and rostering requirements.

A critical workforce shortage is where the operator considers the lack of staff may impact resident care or the effective operation of the facility. This is a notification requirement only and is in place to inform Queensland Health planning for the statewide response to COVID-19. The operator of the residential aged care facility should also continue to address the shortage through normal workforce management practices.

What is critical workforce shortage?

A critical workforce shortage refers to a sustained workforce shortage that the operator of the residential aged care facility thinks may impact on resident care or the effective operation of the facility.

For example, a critical workforce shortage may be a shortage of more than 10 per cent of staff for a sustained period of 7 days or more. This number will be dependent on the size of the facility and baseline staffing levels. This will also need to take into consideration skills mix and rostering requirements.

Who has to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when they enter a residential aged care facility?

Any residential aged care facility employees, contractors, volunteers or students who work across multiple care facilities must wear appropriate PPE as outlined in Queensland Health’s Residential Aged Care Facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance (PDF). You should change your PPE if you are moving between facilities.

Are students allowed to undertake a placement at residential aged care facilities?

Students may undertake a placement at a residential aged care facility (in a restricted or non-restricted area), where they are under the supervision of an employee or contractor.

All requirements that apply to staff and contractors also apply to students, including:

  • notifying the residential aged care facility if they have another care facility workplace
  • wearing appropriate PPE if they work across multiple care facilities.

Facilities may also impose their own additional requirements on students.

Questions about flu vaccines

Why don’t I need a flu vaccine to enter a residential aged care facility any more?

It is no longer mandatory to have a flu vaccination to enter a residential aged care facility, as the peak of the 2020 influenza season is over, and the vaccination is no longer readily available. We will look to reinstate this requirement in 2021 as the new vaccine becomes available.

Questions about workforce management plans and personal protective equipment (PPE)

What do residential aged care facilities need to consider in identifying their workforce surge requirements?

Experiences in other states and territories have shown that if a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified in a residential aged care facility then a significant amount of the workforce will need to quarantine while awaiting their test results. This could be up to 50 or 80 per cent of the workforce. This means the facility will need to urgently access additional staff to maintain short term continuity of care.

Your planning should consider where additional staff will be sourced from, and how you will support continuity of care. You should also consider your ability to minimise the number of staff that would need to quarantine by putting in place measures such as co-horting and staggered breaks, and minimising the number of staff working across multiple care facilities.

What is a workforce management plan?

A workforce management plan is a document to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 into Queensland workplaces and communities. It also outlines how facilities will manage operational requirements regarding staffing, including in the case of an outbreak.

Download a workforce management plan template (DOCX).

Do I have to keep a record of all the places my staff work?

Yes. Staff members working across multiple facilities and workplaces must advise each employer of their other workplaces. The residential aged care facility must keep a record of this advice.

This will assist with contact tracing if a COVID-19 case is confirmed.

What training do I need to provide my staff?

Residential aged care operators must take reasonable steps to ensure all employees, contractors who have contact with residents, volunteers and students of residential aged care facilities undergo face to face infection control and personal protective equipment training.

The training must cover the Residential Aged Care Facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance (PDF). It must also include a face-to-face competency assessment on donning and doffing of PPE.

Some components of the training may be delivered by the trainer virtually.

Who can conduct the training?

The training must be conducted by:

  • a person who has specialist infection control experience
  • a person qualified to provide education/training who has experience in providing education/training about infection control and personal protective equipment
  • a registered nurse or other health practitioner who has experience in providing education sessions
  • a registered nurse who has completed an infection control and personal protective equipment train-the-trainer session led by a registered nurse or other health practitioner who has specialist infection control experience or experience in providing education sessions.

The training must include a competency assessment of donning and doffing personal protective equipment.

What new requirements are in place for supply of personal protective (PPE) equipment?

Residential aged care facility operators must take reasonable steps to ensure adequate supply of PPE is available to respond to a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the facility.

What is considered adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE)?

If a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified in a residential aged care facility the facility will need to immediately implement enhanced infection control practices. This will require increased use of PPE by staff and residents. It is important that residential aged care facilities plan for this, and hold adequate supply on site to meet immediate needs, while waiting for resupply.

As a guide, it is suggested that urban and regional facilities may require 3 days’ worth of PPE, and regional and remote facilities may require 6 days’ worth of PPE. It will also depend on other factors such as the number of staff and residents in the residential aged care facility.

In deciding supply and stock management practices, the facility operator should consider:

  • their ability to isolate and cohort residents
  • the likely required use of PPE
  • the distribution and supply chain logistics.

Why does the direction talk about restricted/non restricted and the Queensland Health’s Residential Aged Care Facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance refers to low/moderate/high?

The Queensland Health Residential Aged Care Facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance (PDF) has been prepared to provide clinical guidance, whereas the restricted/non restricted areas are relevant to rules impacting the general public. Queensland Health will notify facilities and provide clinical guidance when their rating changes between low, moderate and high.

Questions about the collection of contact information – operators of residential aged care facilities

Why do I have to collect the contact information of visitors?

When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, the local public health unit commences contact tracing. Public health officers will assess the movements of the person with COVID-19 while they were infectious and determine who in community are considered ‘close contacts’.

That’s why it’s important to provide accurate and legible contact information, so we can contact you if you are affected, helping us respond quickly and effectively to the spread of COVID-19 in the community, and to minimize potential for you to spread the disease to others.

What contact information do I have to collect?

Residential aged care facility operators must keep contact information about all visitors, including contractors and volunteers, for contact tracing purposes for a minimum of 30 days and a maximum period of 56 days. If asked, this information must be provided to public health officers within the stated time.

For each visitor, this information must include:

  • name
  • phone number
  • email address (residential address if unavailable)
  • date and time period of the visit.

Questions about requirements for residential aged care facility operators to have processes in place to identify residents

What process are in place to ensure residents can be identified in a COVID-19 event?

Residential aged care facilities must take reasonable steps to develop and document appropriate processes to ensure residents and their unique needs can be immediately identified in a COVID-19 event.

For example, this may include requirements for residents to wear identification if appropriate, and to ensure residents’ personal preferences and needs are documented appropriately. It could also include keeping a hard copy of each resident’s relevant records securely stored in the facility, including:

  • current medications list
  • personal care requirements and preferences
  • their advance care planning documents and directions.

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Questions and Requests for exemptions

If you are seeking clarification on a Direction or have any questions, please call 134 COVID (13 42 68).

You can apply for an exemption to a Direction online.