The first few months of 2021 will be a testing time for the aged care sector, waiting for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Recent clusters of COVID-19 in the Eastern states have highlighted the importance of remaining vigilant. For the front-line workers in aged care, this means continuing with visitor screening at residential aged care homes, appropriate infection control measures to maintain the safety and wellbeing of clients, residents, and staff, ensuring that every precaution is taken and the latest health advice monitored.
The government has responded by requiring that each residential aged care service nominate an Infection Prevention and Control lead, who must have completed the government online training by 31 December 2020, in addition to completing an 80-hour Infection Prevention and Control course by 28 February 2021. Mandatory and ongoing Infection Control refresher training is also required for all nursing and care staff in residential services.
To ensure that residents of aged care homes continue to have regular access to visitors in this ‘COVID-normal’ world, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has advised that it will increase its regulatory activity in this area. This follows recent visits across all homes to observe infection control procedures.
The government has announced the introduction of a Serious Incident Response Scheme to commence in April in residential care, once the legislation is passed. A prevalence study is currently underway to test its application for Community Services.
Two further quality indicators will be added to the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program, requiring collection of data and reporting by residential services from July.
Meanwhile, the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will be released by 26 February 2021. My hope is that it will include recommendations of the systemic change that is required to meet the needs of future generations, while providing sufficient funding for this to be possible.
The reform of the sector is long overdue and welcome, especially where it improves the services and support for older people. Ensuring safety and quality in aged care is our primary concern.
Resthaven’s Chief Executive Officer