The change in guidelines is reportedly being weighed up after a Tasmanian aged care staffer who tested positive for COVID-19 last week allegedly breached staffing policy at two aged care homes in the state’s North West by also taking on shifts at local hospitals.
Respect Aged Care – which runs the Eliza Purton Home at Ulverstone and Coroneagh Park at Penguin, two of the three homes where residents and staff were subject to mass testing last Friday – says they implemented a risk-based policy on 7 April 7 which did not allow its aged care staff to also work at local hospitals.
CEO James Binder said:
We don’t blanket ban someone from working across any sites, but where there is a high-risk, we certainly do put policies in place to reduce that risk.
In this instance, we had a policy in place that no one from the North West Regional Hospital or North West Private Hospital was to work at any of our homes. That matter is under investigation, and I can’t comment further, but that was the policy that was in place.
Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, confirmed there was no national policy to stop aged care staff working across facilities so as not to limit workforce capacity.
However, the Minister said he would take advice from the Chief Medical Officer and planned to issue further advice around the change of shift process probably within the next 24 hours that might include temperature testing of aged care workers.
But Minister Colbeck also acknowledged that temperature isn’t always an indicator of the virus – with many cases asymptomatic.
Many operators have already banned staff from working across multiple sites and implemented temperature testing – but if the measures go ahead, it will add yet another ‘bureaucratic spaghetti’ to the system.
Residents and staff at all three Tasmanian homes remain under twice-daily observation for symptoms.