Flu season – is your loved one’s aged care doing enough?

Residents and home care recipients can expect more COVID-19 plus influenza in the coming months. So, what are they doing about it?

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  • Health
  • Read Time: 3 mins

Key Points

  • Aged care regulator lays down the law to providers to prevent COVID-19 and flu.
  • Preparations must happen now to prevent fatalities.
  • Regulator warns that ‘action’ will be taken against negligent aged care providers.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, has put residential aged care providers on notice when it comes to stopping influenza.

An internal memo from the aged care regulator warns providers, and residents and their families that more cases of the flu and COVID-19 are expected this winter as unrestricted international and interstate travel resumes.

The Commission lays its expectations on the line: “As a provider of residential aged care or in-home care, it is your responsibility to be prepared so you can respond quickly to this risk and lessen the likelihood and impacts of any outbreaks.”

The Commission tells providers not to delay completing arrangements for the administration of the flu and COVID-19 winter vaccinations for residents and eligible workers.

Providers are not just being encouraged but warned they’ll be penalised if they don’t comply.

The memo says, “The Commission continues to monitor and assess services’ compliance with all their legal requirements … Instances where staff and recipients of care are exposed to increased harm due to a provider not proactively addressing their requirements are likely to result in regulatory action by the Commission.”

So, what should you expect providers to deliver?

The Department of Health has issued practical advice to help identify key risk factors.

The recommended actions for aged care services when preparing for winter include:

  • Review, test, and update their outbreak management plan and ensure their staff have the knowledge and skills to activate the plan when needed.
  • Have an emergency plan and a business continuity plan in place for all in-home care and community care recipients.
  • Document how to manage cases of flu or flu-like illness in care recipients.
  • Refresh and reinforce their infection prevention and control practices.
  • Assess the vaccination status of all care recipients and staff, obtain necessary consents and offer opportunities to be vaccinated. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advises that the COVID-19 and flu vaccine can be administered at the same time.
  • Make sure they have enough essential supplies in stock including personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid antigen test kits and antivirals for both COVID-19 and the flu.
  • Work with families of care recipients to arrange consent to administer oral antivirals as it is most effective when administered within the first few days after infection.
  • Review their workforce management plan so they have options for sourcing replacement staff for all types of roles when needed during an outbreak.
  • Document ways to inform staff, residents, and families of their strategy for managing winter infections.
  • Continue to report COVID-19 outbreaks to the Department of Health. There is no need to report flu infections to the department.

For flu vaccination advice, refer to the department’s getting vaccinated against influenza resources.

Source: Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission

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