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Protecting Older Australians: COVID-19 update


New mental health campaign launched

The Australian Government will roll out a COVID-19 mental health campaign, ‘How’s your head today?’ to urge people to prioritise their mental health, raise awareness about how to identify when something is wrong, and encourage people to seek help.

The campaign encourages all Australians to check in with how they are feeling. The campaign recognises the emotions many people are feeling and illustrates the actions they can take to help themselves feel better.

The campaign will be provided in 15 languages across radio and print including Vietnamese, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Greek, Italian, Korean, Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi, Khmer, Thai, Turkish, Persian and Macedonian.

For information, advice and support services visit the Head to Health website.

Read the Minister for Health’s media statement.


Residential aged care visitation assistants available in Victoria

The Australian Government is funding a program of Residential Aged Care Visitor Assistants (RACVAs). This will help Victorian residential aged care facilities to welcome visitors.

The primary role of the RACVA is to assist residents with visitors and remote contact, including:

  • helping facilities to schedule in-person visits
  • assisting visitors with PPE requirements and hand hygiene
  • helping residents to use technology to contact family and friends remotely
  • assisting with low-level care such as meal distribution, non-intimate care, linen distribution, and front office and administration functions.

Training for RACVAs has included use of PPE, infection control practices, and working with people with dementia.

RACVAs are placed and funded for a maximum of 8 weeks. RACVAs will support residents and relieve the pressure the aged care workforce is experiencing in the pandemic.

Providers in Victoria can contact directly to discuss opportunities for onboarding an RACVA.

See more information on the DHHS guidance for visitors in Victoria.


Testing of asymptomatic residential aged care workers in Victoria

Australians living in aged care are among those most vulnerable to becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19. Stopping this virus from spreading into Victoria’s aged care facilities is our top priority. Testing gives health authorities the chance to find people with COVID-19 who are working in aged care, before they appear unwell. This will help health authorities identify where community transmission is occurring, before there are COVID-19 outbreaks.

In October, the Australian Government expanded capacity for testing of asymptomatic aged care workers in Victoria. Residential aged care services in Victoria have been or will be contacted to be offered in-reach testing for aged care workers. Services in hotspot locations will be prioritised. We have updated fact sheets to provide further information for aged care workers and aged care facilities in Victoria. Further information for aged care staff in Victoria is available on the Department’s website.


Queensland update on RACF visitations

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has issued Aged Care Direction no. 13 which came into effect on 3 November 2020.

Key changes from November 3 include:

  • you are not allowed to enter a facility if you are waiting on a COVID-19 test result
  • clarification on the list of symptoms that exclude a person from entering a facility
  • clarification regarding exemptions to visit someone who is near their end of life if you have been overseas or in a COVID-19 hotspot, with the permission of the operator of the facility.

Visitors should:

  • visit a resident in the resident’s room, outdoors or a specified area in the aged care facility
  • avoid communal spaces
  • make sure the resident has no more than two visitors at a time, including doctors
  • wash your hands before entering and leaving the facility
  • stay 1.5 metres away from residents where possible
  • stay away when unwell.

Visitors, staff or volunteers at the facility should not be anyone who:

  • is unwell
  • has returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • has had contact with a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • has travelled to a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days
  • has been tested for COVID-19 and is waiting for the result
  • 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 not had the 2020 flu vaccination (unless it is unavailable to you).


South Australian update on workforce restrictions

From 5 November, the Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 12) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 came into effect.

The Direction protects residents, staff and others from the risk of transmission of COVID-19, while supporting the rights and wellbeing of residents and their families.

  • Residents can leave an aged care facility and return for any reason.
  • Relatives and friends (including children) are permitted to visit their loved one in an aged care facility, and there are no limits on the number of visitors per day. Aged care facilities should put processes in place to ensure that residents can receive visitors safely.
  • Visitors coming from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales or New Zealand are permitted to visit aged care facilities upon arrival in South Australia.
  • Visitors coming from Victoria (except cross border community members) are only permitted to visit an aged care facility within 14 days of entering South Australia if they are providing end of life support to a resident. These visitors are required to wear PPE and self-quarantine at all other times.

Personal care workers in residential aged care facilities may work across multiple sites provided they notify the facility operator. The facility operator must also keep a register of any workers who provide care at more than one facility.

Residents of facilities will need to be isolated following a COVID-19 test until the result of their test is known. Nursing, medical, allied health and personal care workers are required to wear personal protective equipment when working within 1.5 metres of any resident awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.

Operators of residential aged care facilities are required to follow a COVID-19 Infection Control Plan approved by the Department for Health and Wellbeing (SA) relating to all communal areas.

All people providing nursing care or personal care to residents must complete COVID-19 Infection Control Training determined by the Department for Health and Wellbeing (SA). Records of this training must be provided to an authorised officer on request.

View details on the residential aged care direction as well as further directives on Aged care facility visitation and general information on aged care - COVID-19 in SA.

Unknown Author, 2020, Department of Health

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