New Visitor Access Code to start next Monday with $200M in Government funding for providers to implement it

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Consultation on the draft Visitor Access Code to allow families to visit aged care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic is due to close at 3pm this Thursday, with the finalised copy of the Code to be in place by next Monday, 11 May – just 10 days after it was announced after last Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.

You can download a copy of the draft Code here.

It limits visits to two people per resident per day in the resident’s room – and will provide a one-off $900 payment per occupied bed for operators in metropolitan areas, while those in regional areas will receive $1,350 per bed – a 50% uplift to reflect their higher costs.

The new payment brings to the total COVID-19 support funding provided to the sector to over $850 million – but it is only half of what the sector had been hoping for.

The same seven aged care peaks and organisations that signed off on the Code had been calling for a $1.5 billion rescue package to keep the sector viable over the next six months – with five running full-page newspaper ads to plead for funding as late as Thursday, stating the sector is ‘desperate’!

This new payment will likely only cover part of the costs of implementing the new Code.

Providers have told us that they will essentially need to employ a ‘concierge’ to check temperatures and flu vaccinations (mandatory for visiting facilities from yesterday) and show visitors to visiting areas.

If a home has 75 residents and half get a visitor twice a week, that is still 75 visits that need to be managed at say 30 minutes each – or 33 hours.

Nick Loudon, the CEO of Queensland-based home care provider Envigor – and LASA board member – says the Code and funding also points to the need for a single aged care peak body to advocate for the sector.

“In the space of a week, profoundly shifting government rhetoric on Aged Care and the industries contribution to managing COVID 19, these are but very small examples of what can be achieved when the industry speaks with one voice,” he wrote on LinkedIn.

“The time is NOW (before the next Federal Election) for the Seven Peaks to become ONE. Your members demand it. Older Australians desperately need it.”

It is doable if the boards of LASA, ACSA and the Aged Care Guild agree to reform as one now, and sort out the structural changes over the next 12-18 months, such as staff duplication, money in bank accounts, property and a constitution.

Will the boards do it?

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