COTA Australia CEO Ian Yates said he pushed hard for an agreement between the States and Territories to adopt a uniform national plan to allow visitors back into aged care facilities.
National Cabinet has backed the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s principles to remove restrictions on visitation to residential aged care facilities after a meeting last Friday.
Health and Aged Care Minister, Greg Hunt, and Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Minister, Richard Colbeck, said it marked an important opportunity to reduce the impacts of social isolation in residential care settings.
“Aged care providers have a responsibility to support the wellbeing of their residents and we know this can be improved through face-to-face visitors, whether it be family, friends, advocates or people providing cultural or community support,” Mr Hunt said.
“Older people in residential care should be able to take advantage of reduced restrictions and participate in activities outside facilities such as outdoor exercise and visits with friends and family.
“We encourage states and territories to implement these principles through their public health orders, following a similar easing of visitor restrictions in New South Wales.”
Two fully vaccinated visitors at one time will be welcomed back for each resident across NSW from 11 October.
Mr Yates said COTA Australia was “really pleased” with the announcement and now awaited the public health orders from the States and Territories, and to see what infection prevention and control advice are ordered.
Under the advice to National Cabinet, the AHPPC strongly encourages all visitors in other states and territories to receive both jabs before considering visiting a loved one.
A move to mandatory vaccination for visitors – an issue voiced by several operators – may be considered later.
The AHPPC says it acknowledges re-opening visitation may increase the risk of COVID-19 cases in facilities, but decisions to limit visitation must be proportionate and take into account the impacts of social isolation on resident health and wellbeing.
In short, providers will unlikely to be able to limit visitors – unless there is a COVID-19 outbreak.