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Protecting aged care residents

Aged Care Direction (No. 21)

What’s changed from 15 January 2021

  • You do not need an exemption from the Chief Health Officer to enter a residential aged care facility for an end of life visit if you have been in Greater Brisbane since 2 January 2020.
  • You still need an exemption for an end of life visit if you have been overseas or in a hotspot in the last 14 days.

What's changed from 14 January 2021

  • People who have been in Victoria on or after 21 December 2020 may now visit a residential aged care facility. Employees, contractors and other persons necessary for the operation of the facility no longer need to provide a negative COVID-19 test before entry.
  • All visitors must not have any COVID-19 symptoms and comply with all other restrictions of the facility.

What's changed from 6pm AEST 11 January 2021

  • Anyone who has been in Greater Brisbane on or after 2 January 2021, unless 14 days have passed since the person left Greater Brisbane, is restricted from entering a residential aged care facility in Queensland.  Greater Brisbane includes:
  • Despite these restrictions, you may enter a residential aged care facility if you wear a single use surgical face mask and are:
    • an employee, contractor, or student of the facility
    • providing goods or services necessary for the facility’s operation
    • providing health, medical, personal care or pharmaceutical or pathology services to a resident
    • required for emergency management, law enforcement or to comply with a power or function of a government agency or entity
    • a prospective resident or a support person of a prospective resident
    • maintaining continuity of care for a resident that can’t be delivered by non-contact means – with permission of the facility’s operator
    • attending for an end of life visit
  • Anyone providing direct care (including staff, volunteers or family members) must wear appropriate PPE as outlined in Queensland Health’s Residential Aged Care facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance

Restricted Residential aged care facilities

Visitors are restricted to residential aged care facilities within the current restricted Local Government Areas within the Metro North, Metro South and West Moreton Hospital and Health Service regions:

These restrictions include:

  • Visitors
    • No personal visitors, including care and support visitors are allowed to enter
    • Only people providing an essential purpose will be allowed to enter
    • End of life visits are allowed
    • Anyone entering a facility must wear a single use surgical face mask
  • Residents
    • Cannot leave the residential aged care facility unless they are receiving health care, attending a funeral or for an emergency or for compassionate reasons
    • The residential aged care facility or the Chief Health Officer can provide an exemption for leave on compassionate reasons
  • Staff

Graphi depicting who can enter a restricted residential aged care facility - Health workers, A visitor who is providing end-of-life support, aged care staff, and emergency workers and police. Everyone must wear a surgical face mask.

For residential aged care facilities located in all other regions the following measures apply.

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
  • has been in Greater Brisbane on or after 2 January 2021, unless 14 days have passed since the person left Greater Brisbane, or they are:
    • an employee, contractor, or student of the facility
    • providing goods or services necessary for the facility’s operation
    • providing health, medical, personal care or pharmaceutical services to a resident
    • required for emergency management, police, and people carrying out a function or power of a government agency or entity
    • a prospective resident or a support person of a prospective resident
    • maintaining continuity of care for a resident that can’t be delivered by non-contact means – with permission of the facility’s operator
    • attending for an end of life visit.

You may enter an 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.

For full details read the Aged Care Direction (No. 21).

Questions and Answers about this Direction

What Local Government Areas are restricted?

Local Government Areas where restrictions apply to residential aged care facilities are listed on the Queensland Government website. From 6pm AEST 8 January to 6pm AEST 11 January restrictions will apply within the Metro North, Metro South and West Moreton Hospital and Health Service regions which include the following Local Government Areas:

  • City of Brisbane
  • City of Ipswich
  • Lockyer Valley Region
  • Logan City
  • Moreton Bay Region
  • Redland City
  • Scenic Rim Region
  • Somerset Region.

Increased restrictions apply to residential aged care facilities in restricted Local Government Areas.

How do I find out whether a residential aged care facility is in a restricted Local Government Area?

You can search the address of a residential aged care facility here to find out if it is within one of the listed Local Government Areas.

Questions about visiting a restricted Queensland residential aged care facility

Who can enter a residential aged care facility in a restricted local government area?

To protect our most vulnerable, the ONLY people who can enter residential aged care facilities located in the restricted Local Government Areas are:

  • aged care staff and contractors (including administration staff, cleaners, tradesman, gardeners and maintenance)
  • students undertaking a placement at the facility
  • volunteers
  • people delivering goods and services (including food deliveries)
  • health care workers (including doctors, nurses, allied health, pathology and pharmaceutical staff)
  • people providing personal care (including hairdressers)
  • emergency workers, police and people carrying out a function or power of a government agency or entity
  • visitors who are providing end-of-life support
  • prospective residents and their support person
  • people who have been granted permission by the operator of a residential aged care facility to enter for maintaining continuity of care for a resident that cannot be delivered by electronic or non-contact means (including support from a primary care giver to eat meals).

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

  • 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
  • has been in Greater Brisbane on or after 2 January 2021, unless 14 days have passed since the person left Greater Brisbane.

Anyone entering a residential aged care facility in a restricted Local Government Area must wear a single use surgical face mask in line with Queensland Health’s Residential Aged Care facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance (PDF).

Can I visit a loved one in a restricted residential aged care facility?

No, personal visitors are not allowed to visit residential aged care facilities located in the restricted Local Government Areas. While we understand that this places a great strain on many families who have loved ones in these facilities, the protection and welfare of our older Queenslanders is a priority. The only exceptions are a personal visit to a resident at the aged care facility who is at their end-of-life, or a support visit where this is required for continuity of care and has been approved by the operator of the facility.

Can a resident of a restricted residential aged care facility leave the facility?

A resident may only leave the facility to receive or access health care, attend a funeral, in the case of an emergency or on other compassionate grounds.

The residential aged care facility operator determines whether a resident may leave for one of these reasons. The Chief Health Officer may also grant an exemption to allow a resident to leave on compassionate grounds, these are rare.

Questions about face masks

What personal protective equipment (PPE) do I have to wear if I’m providing direct care to a resident in a restricted residential aged care facility?

Anyone providing direct care to a resident in a restricted residential aged care facility must wear appropriate PPE in line with Queensland Health’s Residential Aged Care Facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance (PDF)Direct care includes:

  • health care
  • medical care
  • personal care
  • pharmaceutical or pathology testing services
  • support or care from a primary care giver, for example to feed a resident.

Residential aged care facility operators must take all reasonable steps to ensure the appropriate use of PPE by those providing direct care.

Why do I have to wear a single use surgical face mask if I visit a restricted residential aged care facility?

Wearing a single use surgical face mask at a residential aged care facility is another measure to help protect more vulnerable older Queenslanders from the potential spread of COVID-19. The single use surgical face mask will help to stop any germs that you may be carrying from being passed onto residents and staff in the facility. You will not be permitted to enter a residential aged care facility in a restricted local government area without a single use surgical face mask.

Will the aged care facility provide a single use surgical face mask or do I have to bring my own?

If you do not have access to a single use surgical face mask for an essential visit at a restricted residential aged care facility, then the residential aged care facility will supply you with one.

Questions about Greater Brisbane restrictions

I have been in Greater Brisbane, can I enter a residential aged care facility?

Anyone who has been in Greater Brisbane on or after 2 January 2021, unless 14 days have passed since the person left Greater Brisbane, must not enter a residential aged care facility in Queensland.

  • Greater Brisbane includes:
    • City of Brisbane
    • City of Ipswich
    • Logan City
    • Moreton Bay Region
    • Redland City

If you have been in Greater Brisbane, you may only enter a residential aged care facility if you wear a single use surgical face mask and are:

  • an employee, contractor, or student of the facility
  • providing goods or services necessary for the facility’s operation
  • providing health, medical, personal care, pharmaceutical or pathology services to a resident
  • required for emergency management, law enforcement or to comply with a power or function of a government agency or entity
  • a prospective resident or a support person of a prospective resident
  • maintaining continuity of care for a resident that can’t be delivered by non-contact means – with permission of the facility’s operator
  • attending for an end of life visit.

Anyone providing direct care (including staff, volunteers or family members) must also wear appropriate PPE as outlined in Queensland Health’s Residential Aged Care facility and Disability Accommodation PPE Guidance (Opens in new window)(PDF).

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 – currently only New Zealand)
  • 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
  • has been in Greater Brisbane on or after 2 January 2021 unless 14 days have passed since the person left Greater Brisbane or they are:
    • an employee, contractor, or student of the facility
    • providing goods or services necessary for the facility’s operation
    • providing health, medical, personal care or pharmaceutical or pathology services to a resident
    • required for emergency management, law enforcement or to comply with a power or function of a government agency or entity
    • a prospective resident or a support person of a prospective resident
    • maintaining continuity of care for a resident that can’t be delivered by non-contact means – with permission of the facility’s operator
    • attending for an end of life visit.

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. Currently only New Zealand is a safe travel zone country. 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; or

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.

Can a resident of an aged care facility leave the facility?

A resident may only leave the facility to receive or access health care, attend a funeral, in the case of an emergency or on other compassionate grounds.

The residential aged care facility operator determines whether a resident may leave for one of these reasons. The Chief Health Officer may also grant an exemption to allow a resident to leave on compassionate grounds, these are rare.

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).

To apply for an exemption to a Direction please complete the online form.

Submit your request online