Six Recommendations from the Royal Commission

The COVID-19 report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, was tabled in the Australian Parliament on October 1st 2020.  It states that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest challenge Australia’s aged care sector has faced and makes six recommendations to better prepare the aged care sector, its staff and residents for any future outbreaks. The Federal Government has accepted all recommendations.

No. 1

The Parliament will report no later than 1st December to the Commission on the implementation of its recommendations. 

The Government responds in its Media Release on 1st October 2020:

The Government accepts this recommendation.

No. 2

The Australian Government should immediately fund providers that apply for funding to ensure there are adequate staff available to allow continued visits to people living in residential aged care by their families and friends. 

The Government responds in its Media Release on 1st October 2020:

The Government has announced two packages to provide additional funding for staffing which supports visitations to aged care facilities by families and friends of residents. 

In August, the Government committed an additional $245 million to support providers with COVID-19 related costs, including supporting communication with families and managing visitation arrangements, building on the first payment of the COVID supplement of $205 million announced in May. 

The Government is also providing $12.5 million to support residents and their families with enhanced advocacy services and increased availability of grief and trauma services associated with a COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition, the Government will bring forward the introduction of the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) and invest an additional $29.8 million in the SIRS for residential aged care. Legislation to support SIRS will be introduced to parliament in the spring sitting for the scheme to commence in early 2021.

No. 3

The Australian Government should urgently create Medicare Benefits Schedule items to increase the provision of allied health services, including mental health services, to people in aged care during the pandemic. Any barriers, whether real or perceived, to allied health professionals being able to enter residential aged care facilities should be removed unless justified on genuine public health grounds. 

The Government responds in its Media Release on 1st October 2020:

The Government will provide additional funding to support increased access by residents to allied health services during the pandemic and will work with the sector to design and implement these measures.

While the Government has introduced a range of measures to support the mental health of residents of aged care facilities, it will continue to implement further measures. 

No. 4

The Australian Government should establish a national aged care plan for COVID-19 through the National Cabinet in consultation with the aged care sector. This plan should: 

• establish a national aged care advisory body

 • establish protocols between the Australian Government and the States and Territories based on the NSW Protocol but having regard to jurisdictional differences 

• maximise the ability for people living in aged care homes to have visitors and to maintain their links with family, friends and the community 

• establish a mechanism for consultation with the aged care sector about use of Hospital in the Home programs in residential aged care 

•establish protocols on who will decide about transfers to hospital of COVID-19 positive residents, having regard to the protocol proposed by Aged and Community Services Australia • ensure that significant outbreaks in facilities are investigated by an independent expert to identify lessons that can be learnt. The results of any such investigations should be promptly disseminated to the sector.

The Government responds in its Media Release on 1st October 2020:

The Government has a specific national plan for aged care – the CDNA Guidelines for the Management of Outbreaks in Residential Care, which has been updated on two occasions, and which augments the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID‑19).

The national plan for aged care will continue to be updated incorporating the latest available information and released soon as Stage 7 of the National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan for the consideration by National Cabinet.

The Aged Care Advisory Group, established on 21 August 2020 under the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), will be made permanent.

No. 5

All residential aged care homes should have one or more trained infection control officers as a condition of accreditation. The training requirements for these officers should be set by the aged care advisory body we propose.

The Government responds in its Media Release on 1st October 2020:

Funding totalling $245 million will be paid to providers from October 2020 to support
COVID-19 efforts.

It will mandate that aged care providers have trained infection control officers as detailed in this recommendation.

In addition, the Government today announces it will invest a further $10.8 million to enhance the skills and leadership qualities of aged care nurses to ensure older Australians receive the best care possible.

This investment will expand the Australian College of Nursing scholarship program, establish an Aged Care Transition to Practice Program, and create a skills development program for nurses and personal care workers in aged care.

No. 6

The Australian Government should arrange with the States and Territories to deploy accredited infection prevention and control experts into residential aged care homes to provide training, assist with the preparation of outbreak management plans and assist with outbreaks.

The Government responds in its Media Release on 1st October 2020:

The Government has been working with state and territory governments to implement a decision of National Cabinet of 21 August to implement additional face-to-face infection control training and establish joint approaches to the management of outbreaks.

I am sure that everyone in the aged care sector and the community alike are hopeful the recommendations and the government’s response are adequate to better protect our older Australians in residential aged care going forward.

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