New restrictions for aged care

13 August 2020

The State Government has imposed new COVID restrictions on the aged care sector, including prohibiting personal care workers from working at multiple sites.

Premier Steven Marshall today announced that as of August 27 all personal care workers will not be permitted to work at more than one residential aged care facility. At present, these restrictions do not apply to other employees or contractors.

“And the second new requirement: all doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and personal care providers will be required to wear PPE when they come within 1.5m of a resident,’’ he said.

Mr Marshall had previously flagged the new restrictions when he said aged care staff working multiple sites had been a major issue interstate where infected workers had spread the virus at more than one facility.

“We’re very proud that we haven’t had infection or fatality in our residential aged care facilities and our goal is to keep it that way,’’ he said today, adding that SA’s protocols around COVID-19 were acknowledged “I think universally as the best in the country”.

He was previously quoted in InDaily as saying South Australia was the only state in Australia that required people who live in aged care facilities to be removed from the premises if they test positive for COVID-19.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said everyone working at aged care facilities would be required to undergo infection control training.

She said lessons had been learned from other states about how coronavirus tended to spread to aged care residents from healthcare workers rather than visitors, ABC News reports.

"The evidence from Victoria is when you have people working across sites it is much more easy for the disease to spread between facilities and that starts as a small problem which quickly has grown to a very large problem," she was quoted.

In response to today’s announcement, the ANMF (SA Branch) says it wrote to the State Minister for Health almost 2½ weeks ago calling for an urgent meeting of all key stakeholders to prepare the state for the challenges posed by COVID as experienced in Victoria and NSW.

“We only got a response yesterday which basically says nothing other than they have been meeting with industry stakeholders for a proposed way forward and are looking for our support,’’ ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said.

“Now the Premier is taking this significant action without it appears any consultation with anyone representing the aged care workforce.

“We have been expecting and are broadly supportive of the need to take action to avoid cross-contamination (between sites),’’ Ms Dabars said.

“However, we are concerned the new restrictions could lead to a shortage of staff necessary to meet the needs of residents. There is a severe shortage of staff in aged care in country areas, some of whom work more than one site. That won’t be permissible now.’’

Ms Dabars said that just two weeks out from the proposed new restrictions taking effect, aged care industry representatives are still not completely aware of how they will supply staff to meet the needs of residents.

She said the ANMF (SA Branch) is calling on the Government and Department for Health to consult and work with industry representatives to “ensure the safety of residents and viability of services to the older people of South Australia as a matter of urgency’’.