LASA endorses national restrictions on visitors to residential aged care facilities and stronger COVID-19 protection protocols.

“Taking strong measures to protect older Australians is critical to saving lives, in the face of the escalating COVID-19 threat,” said LASA CEO Sean Rooney.

“The aged care sector has been raising its defences since early February and scores of residential care homes have proactively put in place measures to protect residents and the staff that care for them.

“The sector sees today’s announcement by the Prime Minister as a logical and essential escalation of the protections aged care providers have already put in place.

The Prime Minister advises these restrictions are likely to apply for at least six months:

  1. No entry to all people (visitors, staff, contractors) who have been overseas within the past 14 days
  2. No entry to all people who have been in contact with COVID-19 within the past 14 days
  3. No entry to all people with fever or flu-like symptoms
  4. No entry to school groups
  5. Minimise visits by children under 16
  6. After 1 May, no entry to all people who have not had an influenza vaccination
  7. Short duration visits by family and friends of residents
  8. Maximum of two visitors at one time per day
  9. Visitations to be conducted in a resident’s room or outside – not in indoor public places
  10. No large groups of gatherings of visitors or residents
  11. Practice social distancing of 1.5m
  12. For residents facing the end of life, RACFs have discretion for visitors, on a facility by facility basis

“We welcome the balance between care, compassion and an appropriate measure of caution and protection,” Mr Rooney said.

“We know the mental health of people in care is equally important to their physical health and wellbeing, so getting that balance right is fundamentally important.

The sector has been on high alert since late January and implementing increased infection controls, as required by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. In addition to that, we have been upskilling, training and planning for the wider spread of the COVID-19 virus within the community.

“Also, we have been making sure that staff, residents, family and friends are all fully appraised of the latest information from public health authorities so they understand what role they must play in ensuring we are protecting older people,” Mr Rooney said.

“A whole of community response is required, because of the scale and the scope of what we have seen develop in other countries.

“This is crucial for the care of older Australians and the staff who look after them. We must ensure we are doing everything we possibly can to reduce their risk of infection.

“If you have a loved one in aged care, the message is ‘play it safe and play your role in protecting vulnerable older Australians, and the passionate and professional workforce that cares for them’.”

The sector also welcomes the Government’s announcement of the lifting of visa restrictions for student nurses, which will allow approximately 20,000 overseas student nurses to work full time, instead of the current 20 hours per week.

Contact: Nick Way 0419 835 449 nickw@lasa.asn.au