The Australian and Victorian Governments, in collaboration with representatives from the aged care sector, have announced an aged care funding package aimed at reducing the transmission of COVID-19 into aged care services.
It comes as hospitals, medical facilities and aged care homes have been linked to a number of Victoria’s recent cases. The package includes additional funding to help aged care facilities ensure staff do not work across multiple centres or homes, as well as additional infection control training.
The additional intensive training in infection control for aged care workers will build on the training program released by the government earlier in the year. From Wednesday 22 July 2020, Monash University, through its nursing students, will provide face to face training to the aged care sector.
Victorian aged care industry representatives have also agreed principles and an urgent process to ensure aged care workers work in a single aged care facility where possible. The industry will commence a cooperative process to identify existing workforce sharing and negotiate safer arrangements across the sector to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in aged care.
The Victorian government will also provide financial support to workers who are self-isolating or in quarantine. A one-off $1,500 payment will be given to aged care workers who have been instructed by the department to self-isolate or quarantine at home because they are either diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a close contact of a confirmed case.
The governments are also prioritising contact tracing in aged care facilities. The Federal Government has set up a National Incident Centre which will provide information to help states and territories respond to the situation, including data for contact tracing and public health follow up.
Five new COVID-19 testing teams have also been deployed to test staff and residents in residential aged care services located across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
Aged care sector welcomes announcements but clarity needed
The two largest aged care peak bodies Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) say they will work closely with the government to finalise and implement the new measures, however, they are asking government to clarify details of the announcement in particular with regards to resourcing.
The two peaks are committed to addressing the issue of workers unintentionally spreading COVID-19 between aged care facilities. However, in hotspot areas, movement of people must be kept to a minimum and this presents a significant challenge for aged care as many staff work at more than one location.
The association said the new principles must also ensure that no worker is disadvantaged and that providers are given the financial and other support necessary to fill shifts and keep their residents safe.
It comes as the Victorian government mandates wearing face masks in public in metropolitan Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire from 11:59pm on Wednesday.
As of 19 July 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Victoria is 5,696 with 363 new cases since yesterday’s report. The overall total has increased by 343.
Of the total cases, 5,233 cases are from metropolitan Melbourne and 336 are from regional Victoria. More than 1,305,000 test results have been received by the department since 1 January 2020.
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