Unannounced visits put COVID preparedness of aged care providers under scrutiny

Janet Anderson, Commissioner, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The spotlight is on residential aged care providers as unannounced visits become a key strategy to assess their COVID-19 preparedness. With over four years since the initial detection of COVID-19 in Australia, the department has stated that every residential aged care provider should have robust systems and processes to mitigate, prepare for, and minimise the impact of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson says that ensuring residents’ easy access to periodic COVID-19 vaccinations is a critical component of comprehensive COVID-19 management plans. Providers must support residents in understanding the benefits of vaccination and facilitate timely vaccinations, collaborating with local General Practitioners (GPs), community pharmacists, and Primary Health Networks.

“We are concerned about the proportion of aged care residents who are not up to date with their COVID 19 vaccinations. Timely access to vaccination should be part of routine clinical care for every older person.”

Janet Anderson, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner

Concerns have been raised about facilities with low COVID-19 vaccination rates, prompting the Commission to question the focus of those in charge on protecting older people from serious disease.

The Commission plans to conduct unannounced site visits to homes with low vaccination rates to understand the underlying causes and assess the efforts of providers.

Commissioner Anderson warned, “Where we find that a provider lacks interest and/or capability to take the necessary action, and their ongoing inattention to this vital preventative measure is placing residents in harm’s way, there will be regulatory consequences.

In addition to unannounced visits, the Commissioner will be writing to those providers with low resident vaccination rates to remind them of their obligations.

The Commission’s Regulatory Bulletin on COVID-19 vaccination in residential aged care homes is available on their website: Regulatory Bulletin 2024-24: COVID-19 Vaccination in Residential Aged Care Homes.

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