The dedication and commitment of staff at aged care facilities is to be commended. There has been some bad publicity about staff unknowingly spreading COVID-19 within a couple of facilities, and that is tragic, but generally staff across Australia have done a great job with a lot more pressure than they normally carry. Many have gone beyond the call of duty with extra challenges to their already demanding roles.
In my last blog I discussed the call for an increase in visitation rights for families to aged care facilities and the extra burden that would place on staffing levels in an already strained situation. Fortunately there has been a positive response to helping families visit residents in aged care homes whilst keeping them safe. Firstly a nationally consistent code for aged care visits, The Visitor Access Code for Aged Care, was finalised and released as a guide for facilities. It was contributed to by thirteen aged care peak bodies and consumer advocacy organisations.
Secondly, the federal government has responded to the need for more financial support to assist aged care facilities stay safe with the ‘COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program’.
The government is seeking to achieve the following outcomes through this program:
- Consumers of aged care services directly impacted by COVID-19 receive safe, quality care; and
- The financial costs of managing direct impacts of COVID-19 are reduced for eligible aged care services.
The total funding package is $52.9 million delivered over two years. $26.45m is to be delivered in 2019-20 and $26.45m in 2020-21 to residential aged care providers (RAC), National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (NATSI) providers and Home Care providers whose services are directly impacted.
The program will reimburse approved aged care providers for eligible expenditure incurred due to the direct impact of COVID-19. The grant will cover 100 per cent of eligible expenditure up to the maximum grant value.
For RAC and NATSI providers, there will be two components of funding:
- A base funding allocation of $20,000 plus; and
- An additional $2,000 for each operational bed/place.
Any expenditure which exceeds the maximum amount and other ineligible expenditure remain the responsibility of the provider.
The funding is to cover eligible activities associated with managing direct impacts of COVID-19, including the following:
- providing additional staff to manage care in a service with residents who are either infected or isolated due to COVID-19
- replacing existing staff who are infected or isolated due to COVID-19
- training staff and residents/clients in infection control, and
- accessing equipment and resources required to manage a service in an infection control environment, including linen and bedding, paper products, PPE, disinfection and cleaning agents.
Increased or replaced staff may include registered nurses, direct care staff, hotel services staff (catering and cleaning), diversional therapy and activities staff, allied health staff, maintenance staff and administrative staff.
With this swift response to and recognition of the needs of residents, their families and staffing within aged care facilities, in my role as a Placement Consultant, I hope my clients and all other residents in these facilities are now able to see their families, feel supported, safe and, above all, stay well.