The Department of Health and Aged Care is extending its Expression of Interest (EOI) process for COVID-19 in-reach vaccination clinics until 31 December 2022, allowing any residents who were unable to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations over winter due to various reasons to catch up with their vaccination schedule.
This is to extend the key COVID-19 supports currently provided to the aged care sector, especially to Residential Aged Care Facilities that are unable to secure a primary care provider to administer COVID-19 doses, either with a GP or pharmacist or through their Primary Health Network.
Additional funding has been committed to the Aged Care Support Program extension grant to ensure current and future claims can be met. The Government will continue to review and adjust the COVID-19 response in aged care according to expert advice. The extended supports include:
Extension of supply through the National Medical Stockpile
- The National Medical Stockpile (NMS) will continue to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) support to residential aged care homes in outbreak until 31 December 2022.
- Providers remain responsible for ensuring they have sufficient PPE stock on hand in preparation for future outbreaks and seek to source through their usual commercial supply chains in the first instance.
- Where homes that are experiencing an outbreak have exhausted all attempts to source PPE from commercial suppliers, requests for PPE can be made via the My Aged Care Provider Portal.
Extension of access to RATs for residential aged care homes
- Rapid Antigen Test kits (RATs) will continue to be supplied to residential aged care homes through weekly deployments from the NMS for screening and outbreak purposes until 31 December 2022.
- Having effective surveillance testing in place enables early detection of COVID-19 and a swifter response should COVID-19 be detected.
- Current advice is to conduct surveillance screening at least 2 times per week and not more than 72 hours apart for staff, or on entry for each visitor.
- This should increase to daily testing of staff, visitors and residents during an outbreak to help minimise the spread of infections.
- Visitors can also use their own RAT kits prior to their visit and it is appropriate for you to ask for evidence of their test results.
- If COVID-19 is not detected through this initial screening but residents are presenting with COVID-like symptoms, providers should consult with a GP to determine whether other testing is required.
Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant – additional funding
- The COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant reimburses eligible aged care providers for eligible expenditures incurred by managing the direct impacts of COVID-19.
- Additional funding has been committed to the grant to ensure current and future claims can be met.
- The grants will remain open until 31 January 2023 to support aged care providers with the costs associated with COVID-19 incurred up to 31 December 2022.
Continued pathology in-reach testing in residential aged care
- In-reach COVID-19 PCR testing provided by Sonic Healthcare (Sonic), to residential aged care homes managing COVID-19 outbreaks has been extended until 31 December 2022.
- Requests for COVID-19 testing through Sonic will continue through existing channels.
- Following a positive COVID-19 result for a resident or staff member at your home, a regime of repeat testing may be scheduled by the Commonwealth, in consultation with the state or territory Public Health Unit if determined appropriate.
Tracey Lutton, the Assistant Secretary of the Disability and Aged Care Rollout Division, extends her appreciation to the providers for their effort toward the vaccination of residents.
“We appreciate all your hard work towards vaccinating your residents. We know it has been a challenging winter season. Thanks to your efforts, over 81% of aged care residents estimated to be eligible have now received a fourth COVID-19 dose.”
She also noted that a minimum number of residents who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine is not a requirement to register for an in-reach vaccination clinic. Several clinics can be arranged at the same location if required to ensure that everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated can be vaccinated.
Furthermore, providers are encouraged to register their interest in an in-reach clinic through the Residential Aged Care COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic – Registration Form.