For many staff working in health and aged care, COVID-19 has meant a daily ritual of rapid antigen tests, personal protective equipment, infection prevention control, outbreak management and detailed reporting to government.
There has been little respite in COVID-19 cases in South Australia since the Omicron outbreak in late December. Residential care homes have continued to experience outbreaks throughout this time.
It does beg the question; what will COVID-normal look like for aged care?
While restrictions have been eased in the community, keeping aged care COVID-19 free has remained an ongoing challenge. Aged care homes are not hospitals and significant effort has been made over past decades to make them as home-like and comfortable as possible.
Since December last year, people living in aged care homes have only seen the masked faces of the staff who care for them. This has been tough for residents and staff alike.
We can be extremely thankful that the high vaccination rates in aged care has meant that the number of people who have lost their lives or been hospitalised has remained low. With the emergence of new variations of the virus, the winter dose booster is being encouraged for all those eligible.
The Major Emergency Declaration in South Australia was lifted on 24 May 2022, after 793 days. However, all the requirements listed in the Emergency Management Direction for residential aged care facilities were transitioned over to the Public Health Act, essentially perpetuating the Emergency Direction.
While this was a prudent move to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our community given the high case numbers, it is critical that the current restrictions are eventually eased and people living in residential care can return to some semblance of normal.
Let us hope that COVID-normal is a little more normal and a lot less COVID.
Opinion piece by Darren Birbeck,
Chief Executive Officer,