Like all aged care providers in Australia, RSL LifeCare has a COVID-19 Response Plan. The Q&A below is designed to help you understand the procedures involved and what to expect in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in one of our residential aged care homes.
Our COVID-19 Response Plan will be triggered by one of the following:
- Confirmed outbreak: when a resident living in the home tests positive for COVID-19
- Precautionary lockdown: when a staff member or resident who is outside of the home tests positive, but importantly there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the home.
As a first step, the impacted home will initiate its outbreak procedures, which will include a full and immediate lockdown of the facility, with deep cleaning and additional infection control measures put in place.
The home will automatically be restricted to visitors until such time as visits are deemed safe with the guidance of public health units. Compassionate requests for essential visits will always be considered
Keeping loved ones connected is extremely important. We encourage you to ask about the best way to stay in touch with your loved one during your daily calls with the staff at the home. The current Skype catchups that we have had in place since March 2020 would continue.
Essential visits would be permitted only for the nominated contacts of those residents such as those undergoing end of life care.
Coronavirus be transmitted through contact with surfaces where it can have a lifespan lasting several days. To ensure our homes can maintain a high level of hygiene and prevent risk of infection, any packages brought into the home should be essential items that can be wiped down easily with alcohol based, anti-bacterial wipes.
Essential items are defined as those that support and enable communication with families and that are important in acknowledging milestones and special occasions. Examples include iPads, mobile phones, pre-packaged chocolates i.e. all items that can be wiped down with disinfectant.
Non-essential items include things such as home cooked meals, laundry, perishables, any items requiring refrigeration or that presents food safety issues and will not be permitted.
If you have any questions relating to care packages, please contact the Facility Manager of the home prior to bringing items
All decisions during an outbreak will be made in consultation with the NSW Public Health Units and NSW Ministry of Health, in the best interests of our residents.
You can expect the situation during an outbreak to remain fluid, and advice may change from one day to the next. That’s why we will be making daily phone calls, updating our website daily and offering an inbound call centre, so you will always have access to the latest information.
RSL LifeCare is required to notify the NSW Public Health Unit who will then contact other relevant authorities once we have one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the home.
The Public Health Unit will let us know when to begin COVID-19 testing for all staff and residents. They will also advise us on whether and how residents should be moved within the home, or out of the home (for example, to hospital) to minimise risks to their health and safety, and to that of others in the home.
The care needs of our residents are determined through collaborative consultation with the family and Registered Nurses and Management team at the home. All residents and nominated person are offered a copy of the resident’s care plan. We encourage families to consult with the Registered Nurses, Facility Manager or Care Manager at the home to ensure we have captured your loved one’s goals, needs and preferences within their care plan.
RSL LifeCare has a COVID-19 Operational Response Team that is on call 24/7 in the event of an outbreak in one of our Homes. One of the key functions of the outbreak team is workforce provision and protection. The team will meet regularly to review the impacted home’s staffing roster for that day, as well as forecasting needs for the days following.
It is expected that during an outbreak, there will be staff who may need to self-isolate as a result of being a close contact of a confirmed positive case, who are unwell, or have made the decision to not work in a COVID environment. This can impact staff availability. In this situation, our priority is always to do what is necessary to have a full complement of staff to care for residents.
To do this, we will be reaching out to or Rapid Response Team of managers, registered nurses, carers and support staff from other RSL LifeCare homes who are familiar with our practices and policies. In this scenario, the staff member will remain at the outbreak home for the duration of the outbreak.
We will also seek the help of agency staff. In this case we will provide them with training to make sure they have the infection control knowledge required to work at the home and understand the resident’s needs, goals and preferences which will be in the format of the summary care plan this will be made available to all staff. NSW Health also has a government surge workforce that has contracted private agencies to further support aged care homes in the event of an outbreak.
There is concern around the increased risk of transmission if staff or contractors work at different aged care homes or other community centres.
Currently in Victoria, the government has required all aged care workers to select a single site and only work in that one facility as a means of reducing the risk of further transmission of the virus.
QLD has directed that staff do not work across multiple facilities as much as possible. It is likely that NSW will follow suit. Our preference under the current COVID situation is to have staff work in one Home only and we are currently reviewing and adjusting our rosters to achieve this.
Where this is not possible, we mitigate risk through our staff health screening and declaration process that requires staff to disclose if they work in other aged care facilities with confirmed COVID-19 or have frequented any published hot spots whereby they will need to wear a mask while at work. This must be completed before commencement of any shift.
Currently, all staff are required to wear masks while in the home where there is a Level 1 or Level 2 restriction. Staff are not required to where a mask where there is a Level 3 or Level 4 restriction, unless they live or have been in a hotspot as listed by NSW Health.
Residents are not required to wear masks.
Our team reviews and reports on PPE inventory on a weekly basis. In the event of an outbreak in one of our homes, PPE supplies will be managed centrally with a forward-looking view of maintaining at least one to two weeks of PPE supplies in the affected home.
If a resident returns a positive COVID-19 test, RSL LifeCare’s strong preference is for that resident to be transferred to hospital as soon as possible.
However, NSW Health is the ultimate decision-maker during a COVID-19 outbreak, and they have not been definitive on this matter, instead indicating they will make decisions on whether to transfer residents to hospital on a case-by-case basis.
Some families may want to take their loved one out of a home that is experiencing a precautionary lockdown or outbreak of COVID-19. It is important that you know you can take your loved one home through the non-hospital ‘social leave’ process. This is subject to them returning a negative COVID-19 test result.
We will help you to understand the ongoing care needs of your loved one which will need to be continued while they are away from the home. Please note your loved one will not be able to return until the lockdown or outbreak is declared officially over by the public health unit health authorities.
An outbreak can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months (or more) in order to contain, suppress and overcome the infections.
This process is a partnership between the home’s management (who are trained in infection control) RSL LifeCare central support staff (who will provide operational support and oversight), Local Public Health Unit and Ministry of Health (who will assess our residents for clinical need and conduct all contact tracing and COVID-19 testing), and federal government representatives (who will provide workforce support and other directed support required).
While RSL LifeCare is generally admitting new residents, please note that no new residents can be admitted to a home that is in precautionary lockdown, or that has a COVID-19 outbreak.
For all other homes, a thorough screening process is in place to ensure new residents have the necessary health clearances from relevant health practitioners and/or hospitals prior to moving into the home.
Our aim is to support all new residents in settling into a new home, particularly during these challenging times.
We would always encourage you to speak to the Facility Manager or Care Manager of your home in the first instance if you have any questions about your loved one’s care.
Consumers receiving Australian Government funded aged care services are protected by a Charter of Aged Care Rights. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission website includes further resources about aged care, including how to make a complaint.