The high number of COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care homes in Victoria has reinforced the need for everyone working in the aged care sector to be alert and work collaboratively in responding to individual outbreaks.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission remains strongly engaged with aged care services experiencing an outbreak, exercising all our powers as the aged care regulator to minimise the risk to consumers and staff. As we monitor and support these services, the Commission is working closely with the Commonwealth Department of Health, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre and Victorian health authorities.
The Commission has taken regulatory action in relation to a number of approved providers of residential aged care services experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, following concerns identified about the serious impact of the outbreak on their residents, and failure to comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards. The regulatory instrument used – a “Notice of Requirement to Agree to Certain Matters” – sets out terms determined by the Commission that the approved provider must immediately implement.
The terms of the Notice in each case include a requirement for the approved provider to appoint an independent adviser to provide direction and advice to the approved provider to address the identified non-compliance at the service. Providers are also required to give close, ongoing attention to keeping residents and families informed about the regulatory actions under the Notice.
The Commission has also included in Notices a requirement that approved providers immediately implement and comply with all advice, recommendations and directions of Victorian local health authorities to assist with the clinical response to the outbreak. In some cases, the independent adviser has also come from the local health authority.
It is under this provision of the Notice that local Victorian health services have been given authority to deploy staff to the relevant aged care home on a temporary basis to provide leadership or clinical support for the operation of the service. The contribution of local health authorities in protecting the safety and wellbeing of aged care consumers is acknowledged and highly valued.
Importantly, the Commission’s regulatory actions do not remove or diminish the approved provider’s responsibilities under the Aged Care Act to comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards and ensure the provision of safe and quality care to residents. In addition, the terms of the Notice do not affect existing staff at the service in any way.
All providers who are now subject to a Notice are fully cooperating with the Commission in implementing the terms of the regulatory actions.
The Commission acknowledges the ongoing efforts of all aged care services to protect older Australians at this critical time.
If there are concerns about the care of residents or the actions of specific services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, complaints can be made via the Commission’s website: www.agedcarequality.gov.au or by calling 1800 951 822.