Unvaccinated Australians will be allowed to visit New South Wales aged care homes from next Monday, but aged care facilities will have the right to keep vaccination requirements for visitors in place if they wish.
In addition to this change, the rule limiting visitation to two adults and two children per day for each resident has been downgraded to a recommendation.
These changes to visitation rules now bring NSW in line with both Victoria and Queensland.
News of this rule change has been welcomed by friends and family members of NSW aged care residents who have been banned from visiting their loved ones due to their vaccination status.
However, providers and some medical professionals have not reacted positively to the rule changes, as health authorities warn that rising COVID-19 infection rates could top previous peaks of infection throughout the pandemic and place more pressure on the aged care and health care sectors.
New data from the Department of Health and Aged Care reveals that almost 100 aged care residents die each week from COVID in Australia.
Sadly, more than 2,000 aged care residents have already died from COVID-19 in 2022 so far and it is believed that there are currently outbreaks in more than 700 Australian aged care homes.
Speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald, Paul Sadler, interim chief executive officer (CEO) of Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) called upon the government to reverse the decision to allow unvaccinated Australians back into aged care homes.
“It’s bemusing they are doing it now. Most facilities, residents and families would want to maintain it. We know aged care is most at risk; over 2,000 residents nationally have died since the start of the year.”
The rapid spread of COVID-19 in the general community places aged care homes at an increased risk of outbreaks and resident deaths, added Mr Sadler.
This week, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet urged the community to seek out their third COVID jab, with only 60% of the state’s population currently triple-vaccinated.
President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) NSW, Dr Michael Browning, believes that the relaxing of the visitation rule is set to place an even greater burden on an already overwhelmed aged care sector.
“Changes to the public health orders when there is a known and coming surge in COVID cases places a huge potential burden on the aged care sector and the health sector when we are already as stretched as we can be,” Dr Bonning told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“If we put ourselves in a position to make it harder to protect those people, we do the whole system a disservice.”