Government is enforcing face masks for aged care workers in Melbourne hotspots
Since the latest statewide lockdown of Victoria, the Federal Government is requiring all aged care workers in COVID-19 hotspot areas of Melbourne to wear face masks to protect themselves and their residents from the coronavirus spread.
This direction arrives after the Victorian Government announced a full lockdown of metropolitan Melbourne, due to a second wave of COVID-19, and neighbouring Governments ban Victorians from entering their States and Territories.
COVID-19 has popped up in 35 aged care facilities in Melbourne, resulting in deaths of a few older people, raising the State's death toll to 24. All of the deaths in Victoria have been people aged 55 and over, with a majority of people aged 80 contributing to the death toll.
Any aged care staff that work in residential aged care facilities or provide home care support across Victoria's lock down zones must wear surgical masks, as per recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, and Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks, are vital to preventing the spread of COVID-19 to older Australians receiving aged care and also protects carers.
"With the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, there has been a particular emphasis on ensuring additional PPE has been sent to Victoria to ensure aged care workers in that State have access to such equipment," says Minister Colbeck.
"We need everyone to continue to practise good hygiene and follow limits to public gatherings including keeping 1.5 metres of distance.
"If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and get tested."
Aged care workers still need to provide other infection control measures and need to be screened before entering aged care facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into nursing homes.
An additional four million masks are being made available to aged care and home care providers in Melbourne COVID-10 hotspots that have restrictions, including Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shires.
This PPE will assist 449 residential aged care homes and 425 home care providers who provide care and services to 60,427 aged care recipients.
Minister Colbeck says more than 1.35 million items of PPE has been provided to Victorian aged care services since late February 2020.
Minister Hunt adds, "The Australian Government has worked very hard to ensure there is a sufficient supply of PPE, including masks, in the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) to ensure our health care workers, and those working in aged care, can access them."
Since March, over 295 million masks, more than four million gowns, over 41 million gloves, and more than five million goggles and face shields have been secured into the NMS.
Minister Colbeck adds that further targeted testing will be conducted in aged care facilities, for residents and staff, that are in affected areas of Melbourne.
Other support measures in place include:
Deployment of clinical first responders direct to aged care facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks
Immediate access to emergency response teams during a significant outbreak
Access to a surge workforce to support providers who are unable to fill critical skill roles because of infection or staff that have to self-isolate
The Aged Care Quality Safety Commission will still conduct site visits to facilities in Melbourne if concerns are raised about quality and safety of care.
Nursing homes in COVID-19 hotspot areas can receive advice from the Federal Government about screening people wishing to enter nursing homes.
Any aged care providers in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire can contact the Department of Health to request PPE, including masks, gloves and gowns, for in home and residential aged care workers who are providing close personal care and clinical care.
Industry peak body, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), says that the Victorian community needs to be vigilant against the transmission of COVID-19.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LASA, Sean Rooney says, "Older Australians and the passionate people who care for them remain at the forefront of this fight, and we are entering an incredibly testing time.
"The number of aged care homes with infections is increasing and the clear and present danger persists. This is a matter of life and death.
"Furthermore, older Australians in their family homes are also vulnerable to the risk of community transmission of the coronavirus.
"The entire community, especially across Melbourne and Victoria, must re-commit to absolute caution because this virus has proven deadly for far too many older people.
"There is no doubt the preparedness, courage and devotion of aged care staff is continuing to protect our elders but they need support from across the community."
Call the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line on 1800 171 866 for coronavirus related advice, the service is available from 8:30 am - 6 pm (AEST) Monday to Friday.