Many providers took a proactive approach to the South Australian outbreak that has now seen 20 people infected including three aged care workers, restricting visitors to their homes on Monday – but Police Commissioner and State Coordinator Grant Stevens (pictured above) has now stated that facilities must allow residents to have a maximum of two visitors per day.
A number of aged care providers including UnitingSA and Helping Hand announced on Monday that they would restrict visitors except under exceptional circumstances such as palliative and end-of-life care until further notice in response to the COVID cluster.
Other actions taken included restricting staff moving between sites, reimposing mandatory masks and cancelling non-essential visits by outside providers.
Under the new restrictions imposed by authorities on Monday, masks are now mandatory for personal care services for the service provider, and encouraged for the client, and in aged care homes where physical distancing can’t be maintained.
Providers told to offer care and support visits
However, Mr Stevens issued an updated Emergency Management direction for aged care facilities that came into effect on Tuesday at 12:01am, stating that residents must still be able to receive care and support visits by one person – or two people together – on a daily basis.
The directions place providers in a difficult position. Those we spoke to now quickly working out how they could adapt to the new directions while ensuring the safety of residents and staff.
ACH Group had limited visits to support for end-of-life and for compassionate reasons with all staff wearing masks when within 1.5 metres of a customer or resident as a safety precaution.
Its three Health hubs and all community centres within its retirement living sites have also been temporarily closed with all health and social groups suspended.
“These decisions were not made lightly and considered the quick and widespread nature of the cluster and the need for immediate measures to keep our community safe,” ACH said in a statement. “A review will take place on Monday 23 November which will consider the health advice at the time.”
Their pandemic team is also liaising with SA Health, they added.
Time needed to implement visits safely
Resthaven CEO, Darren Birbeck, said while no positive cases had been identified at its 12 aged care homes, they had ceased visits until further notice, introduced surgical masks for residential care staff and recommend to residents that they avoid visits into community settings.
Resthaven will now move back to allow two care and support visits for each resident per day as soon as possible.
“We aim to return to this standard as soon as we can, noting our focus is on protecting the health and wellbeing of our residents and clients, along with employees and volunteers, and their families,” he said.
The new direction comes just 12 days after SA Health removed restrictions on the number of visitors that residents could receive a day as well as aged care staff working across multiple sites.