COTA warns aged care providers to “not ruin Christmas” by barring visitors – as NSW Health removes two-visitor rule

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The consumer peak body says a minority of “rogue” aged care facilities are still preventing residents from seeing their families – or excessively restricting visiting.

COTA Australia CEO, Ian Yates AM, says while most providers are doing the right thing and ensuring good length in-person visits between residents and families, they are still receiving disturbingly regular reports of aged care homes that are preventing in-person visits.

“Aged care residents have been the worst affected by this pandemic,” he said. “Many were left feeling afraid and isolated this year, cut off from visits and support from family and loved ones as aged care homes slammed their doors closed, with many throwing away the key for too long.”

Rogue operators to be reported to the regulator

Mr Yates adds that a window ‘visit’ is not considered a visit under the voluntary national Visitor Code which was developed by 13 consumer and aged care peak bodies and recently updated to reflect the new ‘COVID-normal’ in Australia.

“It is the duty of providers to make sure visits can take place at a range of times such as on weekends, early evening, and over the Christmas holidays, with all agreed precautions,” he stated.

COTA is referring all reports to the relevant peak bodies and, if necessary, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC), which is monitoring complaints about visitation.

“If we don’t see providers lifting their game, we are not afraid to name and shame those who are needlessly isolating the people in their care,” he said.

Mr Yates said if the peak bodies and the regulator can’t pull “rogue” facilities into line, they will ask the Government to make the Visitor Code mandatory – and for their behaviour to be made public.

“Every one of us needs love and connection, particularly after the events of this year. A few rogue providers doing the wrong thing must not ruin Christmas for those who have waited so long to spend time with their loved ones again.”

NSW relaxes aged care visitor rules

The call comes as NSW Health removes the two-visitor rule on aged care facilities from today.

“The risk of transmission in the community is now low enough to facilitate the easing of restrictions for aged care, just as the NSW Government has eased restrictions across many other areas,” NSW Health’s Director of Aged Care, Stefanie Williams, said in a statement.

“Social connections are important to all of us, but particularly to residents in aged care. We are very pleased to enable residents to spend time with more of their loved ones this festive season, and to provide this certainty for families as they finalise their plans.”

Performers like choirs and musicians are also now allowed to visit for the first time since March.