2 February 2022
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, presenting ongoing risks to older Australians receiving aged care, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission) is constantly reassessing its regulatory response to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
In the last few months, the Commission has further refined regulatory processes and is closely monitoring providers to hold them to account for the delivery of safe, quality care to aged care consumers during the current Omicron wave. Key features of our approach to maintaining a strong regulatory response specifically in the context of COVID-19 include:
- undertaking more infection prevention and control monitoring spot checks at individual aged care services where there is an increased risk of a COVID-19 outbreak
- continuing to conduct site visits to residential services to support and ensure provider outbreak readiness
- resolving complaints, and engaging more closely with services where concerns have been raised about the impact of COVID-19 on care
- proactively contacting providers to ensure they have an outbreak management plan that is continually reviewed and updated
- continuing to assess and investigate serious incident notifications related to COVID-19
- holding providers to account by taking compliance and enforcement action wherever necessary
- using intelligence from spot checks, complaints, incidents and other sources to understand risks associated with COVID-19 and effectively target regulatory activities
- developing and promoting best practice outbreak management resources to the sector.
At times the Commission will be unable to gain access to an aged care service experiencing an outbreak due to public health requirements. Where this occurs, we continue to engage with that service using our regulatory powers, including through participation in outbreak management coordination with Commonwealth and the relevant state/territory government health agencies and the affected service.
In December 2021, I wrote to all residential aged care providers reminding them that there is no excuse for a slow or poorly managed response to an outbreak of COVID-19 at their service. Aged care services whose workforce has been temporarily reduced through COVID-19 infection are expected to activate their contingency plans and do everything possible to minimise the impact on their consumers. The Commission will act promptly where older Australians are at risk of harm and will continue to be present in aged care services to perform its functions.
All aged care services must be alert to the potentially harmful impact on consumers of social isolation. Proactive measures by residential aged care providers – such as implementing Partnerships in Care arrangements – can support safe visitor access wherever permitted under public health orders. Home service providers are also expected to focus on mitigating the risks to consumers including social isolation. The Commission is conducting audits and other regulatory activities of home services to monitor their quality.
The Commission will continue to review and update its regulatory approach to ensure that it remains responsive to evolving pandemic risks. We will inform older Australians and aged care providers of any changes to our approach through our website and other communication channels.
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