Matthew McMahon and Matthew Yahl

Update on the COVID-19 supplement and the new aged care directions in Queensland and Victoria

Matthew McMahon and Matthew Yahl

October 26, 2020

Aged Care Retirement Villages

COVID-19 supplement

On 13 October 2020, the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians the Hon Richard Colbeck, provided an update on the Federal Government’s COVID-19 supplement. As our readers might remember from our previous blogs, the COVID-19 supplement consists of funding which is made available to providers to assist them with the additional costs of preparing for and responding to COVID-19. This includes costs associated with facilitating and managing visitation arrangements for residents, infection prevention and control and additional staff costs.

Mr Colbeck’s announcement outlined that a further $217.6 million worth of funding is in the process of being made available in October 2020. This follows the Federal Government making a lump sum payment of $205 million in funding in June 2020.

Importantly, one of the specific requirements associated with the second payment due this month is every facility must nominate an onsite clinical lead to provide leadership and increase capacity in relation to infection prevention and control.

Update to Aged Care Directions in Queensland

On 16 October 2020, Aged Care Direction (No. 12) came into force in Queensland (Queensland Directive).

The key change to the Queensland Directive is a relaxing of some of the restrictions relating to the movement of residents in and out of facilities. Under the previous direction, operators of residential aged care facilities were not permitted to allow residents to leave the facility for external excursions with a group of residents. This direction has now been repealed meaning providers are able to now permit residents to leave facilities for external excursions with other groups of residents.

The Direction does not  specify or limit the type of venue that providers may utilise for excursions. However it would still be prudent for providers to consider infection risk for residents when selecting a venue for excursions given some venues may behigher risk than others (eg a visit to a large shopping centre would have to be higher risk than a visit to a park for instance).

The Direction also clarifies that:

  • people who have been in the NSW Border zone may visit their loved ones in residential aged care facilities; and
  • residential aged care workers and health care workers who wear appropriate personal protective equipment and follow recommended infection control precautions are not considered ‘known contacts’ of confirmed COVID-19 cases for the purposes of entry to a residential aged care facility.

Queensland Health have also issued some Guidance Material for providers in relation to the latest direction. The Guidance Material is available here.

The Guidance Materials make reference to a broad list of reasons that a resident can now leave their aged care facility.  Thisincludes to receive health care, attend family gatherings, exercise, attend excursions, receive palliative care, visit another aged care home, visit a service provider or attend a funeral. This is an extremely wide range of activities (as it was intended to be) and restores residents to having virtually unrestricted rights to leave the aged care facility.

Update to the Queensland Movement and Gathering Direction

On 16 October 2020, the Movement and Gathering Direction (No. 5) came into force in Queensland (Movement and Gathering Direction).

The Movement and Gathering Direction applies to residential aged care facilities and, in short, concerns the movement of members of the public in both private and public spaces. The following key changes are of relevance to aged care providers:

  • A maximum of 40 people are able to gather outdoors (eg in the outdoor areas of aged care facilities); and
  • A maximum of 40 people are able to gather on the premises of a residential aged care facility (whether indoors or outdoors).

For the purposes of this directive, a gathering is taken to mean a gathering of more than 40 persons in a single undivided outdoor space or single undivided indoor space at the same time. Further, a gathering does not include a gathering at a residential aged care facility that is necessary for the normal business of the facility or residence, ie a gathering of people for the necessary and normal business functions of the facility is automatically permitted.

Update to Aged Care Directions in Victoria

On 18 October 2020, Care Facilities Direction (No 14) came into force in Victoria (Victorian Directive).

The new Victorian Directive has implemented some relaxations in line with the changing COVID19 situation in Victoria. However, there has also been some tightening of certain rules relating to entry to aged care facilities, including the classes of persons who are able to enter aged care facilities.

The general exclusion of those under the age of 16 from aged care facilities no longer applies. We recommend that providers take this into account when adjusting their policies.

The Victorian Directive has also provided a limit of one household at a time to visit residents in a facility outside of the Restricted Area. This is greater than the single person restrictions that were previously in place.

Notwithstanding the relaxations outlined above, there have been a number of new restrictions introduced. We have summarised some of the key new restrictions that providers should be aware of below:

  • The category of symptoms under the definition of “2019-nCov Symptoms” has been expanded. People experiencing a loss of smell or taste may now also be included as persons displaying symptoms relating to COVID19. Providers should consider expanding their visitor questionnaire forms to include questions relating to these additional symptoms.
  • The quarantining exclusion has also been expanded to include persons required to self-quarantine under the Diagnosed Persons and Close Contacts Directions (No 12).
  • The Victorian Directive now provides that all visitors to the facility must make a written declaration before entering. While most providers may already require this, it is important that all providers are now aware that this is a legal obligation pursuant to the Victorian Directive.

If you have any questions about the updated directions, please contact a member of our national Health, Aged Care and Retirement Villages team.