The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will not be making unannounced visits to aged care facilities while tough social distancing and infection control restrictions are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Quality Commissioner, Janet Anderson PSM, told HelloCare the commission is adopting new procedures to ensure it can adhere to infection control and quarantine measures before they enter a facility and to ensure the safety of residents, staff and the commission’s own employees.
“Our key focus at this time is to support providers in keeping aged care consumers safe through your efforts to prevent and control a COVID-19 outbreak in your service,” Ms Anderson wrote in a letter to providers.
Ms Anderson said the commission has “adjusted” its “routine regulatory activities” in an effort to “minimise infection risks to aged care consumers, staff and our own employees”.
Ms Anderson told HelloCare, “The commission will undertake site visits only in particular circumstances and based on the level of assessed risk by the commission.”
Where a site visit is deemed necessary, Ms Anderson said the facility will be notified in advance.
“In circumstances where a site visit is deemed to be necessary, the Commission will contact the service in advance of the visit.
“This will ensure that the visit arrangements are planned in order to meet the relevant health authority’s advice and the service’s onsite infection control requirements, and that staff are fully briefed to adhere to these requirements,” Ms Anderson explained to HelloCare.
Ms Anderson said aged care facilities can be accredited without a site visit.
“Where a provider has a residential aged care service due for a re-accreditation audit, there are special provisions that can be applied to prevent expiry of accreditation and effectively ensure continuity of accreditation of that service,” she told HelloCare.
“We are deploying a range of contacts with providers to monitor and support them to provide quality care and services to their consumers.
“Our broad range of regulatory functions equips us well to maintain oversight and to monitor and support providers at this time,” Ms Anderson said.
The commission’s focus during assessment contacts will be infection control and outbreak preparedness.
“We will undertake assessment contacts with services by telephone to monitor and support the quality of care and services to consumers,” the commission’s letter states.
“The focus of these assessment contacts is to support your infection control program and outbreak preparedness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It’s unknown how long the new arrangements will remain in place. The Quality Commission is reviewing and updating its approach day by day.
“With the COVID-19 situation changing rapidly, we are continuing to review and update our response in line with the latest government advice,” Ms Anderson said.
The United States has also halted routine aged care inspections as the number of COVID-19 cases there approaches 50,000.