New COVID guidelines and Visitor Code for aged care homes revealed as the sector moves to ‘COVID-normal’

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In May this year, 13 aged care peak bodies and consumer advocacy organisations worked together to develop an Industry Code for aged care homes during the pandemic – now the Code has been updated with a new three-tier escalation plan to reflect the ‘new normal’.

You can download the COVID-19 escalation tiers and aged care provider responses here.

The ‘Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19’ has also been updated here.

The new three-tier escalation plan – which has been backed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) – outlines how providers can respond to the COVID-19 threat level in their local community.

Under Tier 1 where there is no community transmission or locally acquired cases, providers are advised to have fewer restrictions on visitors and allow excursions, small gatherings and outdoor exercise.

If they are in a defined hotspot with localised outbreaks of cases (Tier 2), providers are urged to be vigilant and fluctuate between Tiers as necessary, depending on transmission rates in their suburb as well as surrounding areas.

“They should also take note of where their staff are based and transmission rates in those areas. Facilities closer to the epicentre of outbreaks may be Tier 3, with bordering suburbs being at Tier 2 and further suburbs at Tier 1,” the updated Code states.

“Importantly, providers should be implementing the least restrictive approach and the lowest Tier appropriate for their location.”

Only when there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the community (Tier 3) can providers restrict visitors provided they adhere to the Industry Code, particularly Principle 7 in relation to residents requiring additional social supports.

“The movement to the lower Tier should occur as quickly as practicable, in line with the State or Territory Directive,” the Code reads.

At all three tiers, the guidelines state that a resident’s family and friends, with volunteers only excluded in Tier 3.

However, the number of people may be limited at Tiers 2 and 3 to allow for physical distancing and hygiene requirements. Providers must also offer additional ways to connect such as technology, window visits and balconies.

The guidelines do not cover any separate State health directions that may be in place.

Like the Visitor Code, the plan is also voluntary – but with the regulator closely monitoring homes that restricted access during COVID, it seems likely that non-adherence will be noted.


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