Aged Care information on COVID-19
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is providing support and advice to any members seeking information regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Ensure you’re covered at work by joining the NSWNMA.
If you’re working for a private aged care provider, please check this page for information around self-isolation and your workplace entitlements
The evolving nature of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak means our public health advice will continue to change. One thing remaining consistent however, is the contribution frontline nurses and health sector professionals are making to address it.
The Commonwealth Department of Health website contains detailed guidance for health sector workers and is updated regularly.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We are hearing from some aged care members there are concerns about access to PPE. Current advice from the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer is there is no need for aged care workers (or the public) to wear masks during day-to-day duties.
However, health and personal care workers are advised to wear masks when dealing with symptomatic patients or consumers. Evidence currently suggests droplet spread is the main mode of transmission, and surgical masks are adequate and much easier to fit than P2 masks. The current PPE guidelines are available here.
Request stock of PPE
Residential aged care providers can request PPE by sending an email to agedcareCOVIDPPE@health.gov.au
The Department will assess requests and may be in contact if additional information is required. Providers will be advised if their request has been successful. If so, state and territory governments will distribute the agreed PPE to the provider.
Priority will be given to aged care providers where there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19.
National Guidelines for COVID-19 Outbreaks
The Communicable Diseases Network of Australia have released National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia.
The guidelines provides best practice information for the prevention and management of COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care homes. Providers are encouraged to use these guidelines in conjunction with existing practices.
International Student Nurses
On 18 March, the Commonwealth Government announced it will relax international student nurse visa work conditions to provide workforce continuity for aged care facilities, home care providers and other health care workers.
This will allow international student nurses and other aged care workers to work more than the 40 hours a fortnight that they are currently. This measure will be examined on an ongoing basis. There are currently around 900 approved providers of residential aged care employers and around 1,000 approved providers of Home Care Packages. There are currently around 20,000 international student nurses studying in Australia.
Influenza vaccine requirement
New legislation now requires all aged care workers to be vaccinated against Influenza.
- from 1 May, you must have your influenza vaccination to work in or visit an aged care facility
- if you’re a residential aged care worker, you must not go to work if you have a fever or symptoms of a respiratory illness
Restrictions on visitors
As of 18 March, residential aged care facilities are now required to increase restrictions on visitors. People mentioned below must not enter or remain on the premises of a residential aged care facility during the relevant period if—
(a) during the 14 days immediately before the proposed entry, the person arrived in Australia from a place outside Australia, or
(b) during the 14 days immediately before the proposed entry, the person had known contact with a person who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or
(c) the person has a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees or symptoms of acute respiratory infection, or
(d) the person does not have an up-to-date vaccination against influenza, if the vaccination is available to the person.
Only family and close friends or professional service workers will be allowed in and visits must take place in a resident’s room, outside, or in an area designated by the facility.
Children should not visit at all. Group visits, school groups and gatherings including social visits or entertainment will are not permitted.
Online COVID-19 Training
The Department of Health has developed a free 30-minute online education course for workers in the aged care, health and disability sectors
After completing the course, course participants should be able to:
- understand the basics about the COVID-19 virus, including how it is spread
- describe what you can do to protect yourself and others
- know what to do if you develop symptoms
- know what to do if the person you are caring for develops symptoms
- tell the difference between myths and facts of COVID-19.
Register to participate in the training here.
On 20 March, an additional $444.6 million in funding, including a retention bonus for workers, was announced for the aged care sector:
- $234.9 million for a COVID-19 ‘retention bonus’ to ensure the continuity of the workforce for staff in both residential and home care. This means:
– Full-time direct care workers in residential care facilities will receive a payment of up to $800 after tax per quarter, paid for two quarters.
– Full-time home care workers will receive payments of up to $600 after tax per quarter, paid for two quarters.
– Part-time direct care workers receive a pro-rata payment for the amount of time you work. For example, if you work two days a week, you’ll receive 40 per cent of the payment.
– Payments will be made via your employer with the first payment expected in June (for the preceding quarter). The second payment will be paid in September.
- $78.3 million in additional funding for residential care to support continuity of workforce supply.
- $26.9 million to increase the residential and home care Viability Supplements and the Homeless Supplement (including increased viability payments for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program providers and Multi-Purpose Services).
- $92.2 million in additional support to home care providers and organisations which deliver the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, including for services such as meals on wheels.
- An extra $12.3 million to support the My Aged Care call centre to respond to the needs of older Australia.
- educate and train more aged care workers in infection control;
- enable aged care providers to hire extra nurses and aged care workers for both residential and home care; and
- bolster the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s capacity to ensure providers are stepping up infection control measures.
If members are concerned their employer is not following the appropriate guidelines, the NSWNMA can provide assistance to ensure appropriate measures are in place. Contact us here.
The NSWNMA will continue to provide further updates for members as we receive them. Information contained on this page is current as of 18 March 2020. Contact us here.