Essential visitors, tiered outbreak categories feature in new draft Aged Care Visitor Access Code

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A new draft of the Aged Care Visitor Access Code has been released for public feedback, with provisions including an “Essential Visitor” policy and a three-tiered system for categorising aged care homes during outbreaks.

The draft, which is the Code’s sixth revision, proposes allowing aged care residents to designate one person as an “Essential Visitor”, who will always be allowed to visit to provide physical and emotional care even during an outbreak; this is a win for COTA, which had been advocating for such a policy.

Another provision would see three categories implemented for aged care homes during local outbreaks, based on severity:

  • Code Green, for minimal COVID-19 in the LGA;
  • Code Orange, for heightened risk of COVID-19 in the LGA; and
  • Code Red, for active outbreaks within the aged care home. Each would come with its own prevention and control measures.

According to Ian Yates AM, Chief Executive of COTA Australia (pictured), the sector must find a “reasonable balance” between safety precautions and the dignity and well-being of residents.

“Aged care consumer and provider peaks have been working throughout the pandemic to achieve a nationally consistent approach to aged care visitation, and have constantly revised the Code to respond to the latest health advice and the shifting reality of the pandemic.

“Going forward there will be Covid outbreaks across Australia, but aged care providers can’t implement rolling lockdowns. I urge all Australians with experience of aged care, whether as a recipient, worker, or family member, to fill out the consultation form and have their say,” he said.

Victoria has recently moved to allow unvaccinated visitors access to aged care homes in the state, a decision which the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) has called on the State Government to “urgently review”.