Is your organisation ready for the business and operational impact of the COVID-19 in aged care?

6 March 2020

Updates from the Department of Health

The Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of Influenza Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia (Influenza Outbreak Guidelines) and the Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs) provide aged care providers with best practice guidelines for, preparing for, preventing, identifying and managing outbreaks of influenza in residential care facilities in Australia.

Infection Control measures and Outbreak Management in residential care settings is not a new or unfamiliar phenomenon.

However, the impact and spread of the virus in the wider community, poses significant risk to residential aged care services, its residents and its staff, and is likely to impact on the available workforce, disruption to supplies, and increase demand on external health services.

 

Staff absences

Currently, the isolation period is 14 days for persons who have left, or transitioned through a country considered to pose a risk of transmission or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Obviously, residential aged care and home care services cannot be provided remotely, a personal care worker cannot assist a resident or client with their activities of daily living from their home.

  • Have you considered what your organisation will do in terms of staff absences, and leave?
  • Staff may be absent because they are caring for others?
  • What if staff do not have the necessary leave available?
  • What are you/How are you communicating information about the virus to your staff?
  • Increases in residents or clients who are unwell generally require an increase in staff numbers?
  • Have you considered the impact the virus may have on availability of agency staff?
  • Is this an opportunity to cross train some staff in other areas of the organisation?

 

Visitor restrictions and signage

The Influenza Outbreak Guidelines provide guidance in relation to minimising the movement of visitors into and within a service.

  • Have you considered issuing communications to resident representatives and families reminding them:
    • not to visit if unwell;
    • to maintain good hand hygiene; and
    • the importance of respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
  • Are visitors required to use hand sanitiser prior to entry to the service, or do visitors generally sign in and then use hand sanitiser?

 

Infection control measures

We have seen the effect of the virus on the activities of consumers, purchasing and stockpiling toilet paper, hand sanitiser, face masks, paracetamol and long life pantry items.

Residential aged care services are a ‘one stop shop’ for personal protective equipment.

  • Is it stored where it can easily be accessed by visitors?
  • Are stocks actively being monitored to ensure that there are efficient stocks available?
  • What does the contract with your current supplier say about exclusivity, deliverables and events which interrupt the supply chain?
  • Do you have service agreements with alternative suppliers?

Other relevant operational considerations include:

  • Does your service facilitate the isolation of residents to a single room or specific area of the service?
  • Do you need document templates to assist with the thorough and contemporaneous documentation of relocations within the service?
  • Have you considered the possibility that residents may seek to transfer to your facility from a facility which has confirmed or suspected cases of the virus?
  • When was the last time the service performed a ‘test run’ of the business continuity plan or a ‘mock’ outbreak management response? Do all your staff know their roles?

 


Authored by:

Sabine Phillips, Partner
Tamie Duncan-Bible, Senior Associate

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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