Transition to next phase of managing COVID-19

Like the broader community all aged care providers are now planning for the next phase of the pandemic.  We are currently reviewing all the elements of our Outbreak Management Plan and will be guided by the health experts to assist in our decision making in this next phase.

Currently, all aged care providers in NSW are still subject to the NSW Public Health Orders until 22 June 2020 and these are quite clear about a number of restrictions which we cannot deviate from.  We have had a number of requests for children under 16 years to visit and until the Orders are amended we cannot allow this to occur.

 Update to isolation following a hospital visit

NSW Health has confirmed letters to all residential aged care providers will be issued prior to a resident being transferred to an aged care facility from hospital.  The letters will confirm the resident has been assessed and screened for any signs of COVID-19. Our facilities will be communicating with the hospitals that this clearance is a necessary part of the discharge handover to the facility and the information will be expected prior to transfer.

This will mean anyone transferred from hospital to one of our facilities with a COVID-19 clearance will be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 and will have their temperature checked for 14 days, and they do not need to be isolated.  If they develop any symptoms they will be immediately placed in isolation and tested.

New definition of an outbreak

The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) National Guidelines for Public Health Units for COVID-19 have changed the definition of an outbreak to be a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in a resident, staff member or frequent attendee of a high-risk setting – including aged care homes.  Under this definition if a visitor was considered to be a frequent attendee, then an outbreak would be declared in a facility even if no staff or resident showed any symptoms. BCAC keeps copies of the declarations all staff and visitors complete, so that we can provide the information to the Public Health Unit for any contact tracing.  Under our Privacy Policy only staff who need access to the information can view the document, and your contact details would only be released to the Public Health Unit for the purposes of contact tracing.  We would be required to provide the information to the Public Health Unit on request. If you have attended, or know a friend or family member who has attended the facility who is then diagnosed with COVID-19, we would appreciate being notified as quickly as possible so we can take action with the Public Health Unit rapidly.

 Additional staff training and audits

We have commenced another round of staff infection control training to reinforce and embed the knowledge we have already rolled out.  We have also commenced observational audits of staff doing their work to monitor compliance with the strict infection control practices we have in place. Vigilance is very important as the wider community restrictions are relaxed, and the additional training includes reminders that our residents are the most vulnerable group for serious consequences if they contract COVID-19.

Deborah Key