Balancing the virus and visitation rights in aged care

By Melissa Coade

Tuesday September 28, 2021

Aged care advocates call for leadership on when COVID rules can ease for nursing homes.
Aged care advocates call for leadership on when COVID rules can ease for nursing homes. (alex.pin/Adobe)

Aged care advocates have called for federal leadership on when COVID rules can ease for nursing homes in line with relaxing other public health restrictions for the community related to the pandemic.

The federal government must produce a roadmap as to when aged care residents can receive visitors again, according to the Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA)

The advocacy group says that it is especially important for the government to provide this certainty for residents of facilities located in New South Wales and Victoria.

ACSA CEO Paul Sadler said that the sector or individual resident facilities could not simply ‘make up the rules’ as they went along. He added that it was the government’s responsibility to deliver a plan that provide a timeline for older people to reconnect with their families and loved ones again. 

Older Australians in aged care have a human right to see their families while maintaining their safety and protection,” Sadler said.

“The federal government has the responsibility for setting guidelines that aged care providers must abide by in terms of the rules governing visitors, including current restrictions in NSW and Melbourne.”

Sadler said the sector expected the federal government to work with state and territory counterparts (as the authorities issuing public health orders that apply during outbreaks) to provide ‘a framework around these difficult decisions’. 

ACSA has listed four priority issues it wants to see the government act on:

  1. Establishing a robust process to support vaccine coverage in aged care homes that are yet to achieve 100% staff vaccinations.
  2. Prioritising the provision of vaccine doses for all residential care staff still waiting for their second dose.
  3. Supporting Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) within aged care homes.
  4. Boosting vaccination of home care staff to protect the more than 1 million Australians who rely on home care and support services. 

Referencing news that federal aged care services minister Senator Richard Colbeck had asked that a roadmap for the sector be examined by the the aged care advisory group to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, Sadler said developing a plan would reassure staff, residents of aged care facilities, and their families.

Given the lengthy separation experienced by many older people who have been unable to see their loved ones during these extended lockdowns, he wanted the government to give urgent consideration to how easing restrictions would also benefit aged care residents. 

“ACSA is calling for more urgency from government in setting the course for returning visitors to all aged care facilities and the advice on how we balance those visits with safety for residents, staff and other visitors,” Sadler said. 

“Many aged care facilities and staff members have been innovative in the ways they’re keeping people connected, now we need a government plan that provides certainty and a roadmap for opening up visitation,” he said.


READ MORE:

Aged care sector group want COVID-19 shot for care workers nationally mandated

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