Advice for non-health residential facilities
Who is at risk?
For many people COVID-19 causes a relatively mild illness. However, it can make some people very ill and, more rarely, the disease can be fatal. These people include:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50 years of age
- People 65 years and older or with one or more of the chronic conditions detailed below:
- chronic kidney disease
- heart disease
- chronic lung disease
- People 70 years and over
- People with compromised immune systems.
Many residents and some staff and volunteers in care facilities may fit into this category. There are currently no vaccines or specific treatment for this disease so implementing increased measures to reduce the risk of transmission to vulnerable residents, staff and volunteers is very important.
A risk assessment needs to be carried out for any staff or volunteers who are in any of the high-risk categories to determine whether it is safe for them provide care to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff and volunteers who are vulnerable should not be providing direct resident care and attendance at the residence should be limited to essential staff/volunteers only.
Preventing disease transmission
Opportunities for transmission of this disease can be reduced by implementing some simple hygiene measures:
- Staff and volunteers should ensure strict adherence to frequent hand hygiene with soap and running water or alcohol-based hand rub and encourage and support residents to do the same.
- Good respiratory etiquette should be encouraged and supported by ready access to tissues and bins.
- Measures should be put in place to encourage and enable residents to maintain a social distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other and staff and volunteers, where possible.
- Non-essential personal care activities requiring direct resident contact should be limited during this period.
- Environmental cleaning schedules should be reviewed to ensure regular cleaning throughout the day, paying particular attention to frequently touched surfaces in common areas.
- Staff and volunteers should be actively monitored, and unwell staff or volunteers should not be allowed to enter the facility until they are well again.
- Visitors should be restricted as much as possible and unwell visitors should not be allowed in the facility. Facilities should maintain a log of any visitors to the facility.
- Symptomatic residents should be isolated immediately into a single room environment and an urgent medical review arranged for them.
Preparing for a confirmed case in your facility
All residential care facilities should prepare for the possibility of a confirmed or suspected case being identified in the facility. The Australian Government has published Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia.
It is strongly recommended that all residential care facilities urgently review these guidelines and associated resources to assist them to develop a facility plan.
Additionally, it is important to immediately notify your public health unit if a resident or staff member is suspected of having COVID-19 (view public health unit contact details).
When preparing or managing your facility in the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case, also consider the following advice:
Personal protective equipment
Wearing a mask is not necessary unless you are interacting with a resident with respiratory symptoms. If a resident has respiratory symptoms, they should be asked to wear a surgical mask when in the same room as other people. Contact and droplet precautions (wearing a surgical mask, impervious gown, protective eye ware and gloves) should be worn when providing care to a resident with respiratory symptoms.
If a resident is confirmed to have COVID-19 staff should follow the advice in the Queensland Health Interim infection prevention and control guidelines for the management of COVID-19 in healthcare settings.
Standard precautions should always be followed when cleaning or managing sharps or where there is potential for body fluid exposure.
If services are not able to access sufficient resources from their usual supplier, as per the Australian Government Department of Health COVID-19 Guide for Home Care Providers they may apply to the Australian Government Department of Health for additional supplies by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
As a potential source of infection, the handling and laundering of bed linen, towels and cleaning supplies should be considered. The risk of disease transmission is very low if basic hygiene and routine storage and handling of soiled and cleaned linen is practised. It is imperative that routine processes are followed when handling all soiled linen regardless of source. This includes:
- All onsite and offsite facilities that process or launder linens commercially must have documented operating policies consistent with AS/NZS 4146.
- All used linen should be handled with care to avoid dispersal of microorganisms into the environment and to avoid contact with staff clothing.
- All linen used for a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection should be managed as for heavily soiled linen.
- Where a resident manages their own linen this may continue where they are able to demonstrate adequate attention to personal and environmental hygiene requirements.
- Routine established processes for the transport of linen should be used.
As a non-health facility, most of the waste generated by your facility would be considered non-clinical. The risk of transmission of COVID-19 when handling waste is low. The handling of waste should be done in accordance with safe routine procedures. Sharps containers can be managed as per your normal process.
- Visit the Queensland Health website www.health.qld.gov.au/coronavirus for latest updates on COVID-19.
- COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection recommendations
- COVID-19 information on linen management and waste management