I am writing to provide you with an update on the PAC policy on visits to our residential care homes.
13 aged care peak bodies and consumer advocacy organisations have recently put together an ‘Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19’. The Code was finalised after public consultation with both consumers and aged care providers and creates a nationally consistent approach that ensures residents can receive visitors while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19.
I wish to announce that Presbyterian Aged Care has adopted the Industry Code for visits to our residential care homes and will adjust our practices from today to support the implementation of the Code.
A copy of the Code is attached to this email and I would urge families and their representatives to read it and familiarise themselves with the PAC visitation rules below ahead of visiting the care homes.
The key changes from the visitation policy we have in place right now are:
- Increasing indoor visit times from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. We are also increasing outdoor visiting times to one hour.
- Allowing some additional categories of visits, as set out in Principle 7 of the Code.
As per the current rules, each resident will be able to have up to 2 visitors per day.
Note that the Code will not apply if the home experiences an outbreak of COVID-19 or another infectious disease outbreak and that residents have the right to choose NOT to have visitors. The new changes will apply from Wednesday 13 May.
The official Australian Department of Health advice remains that if you don’t absolutely have to visit a residential care home, please don’t, and that it is best to keep in touch via phone and video calls. We would still urge you to follow this advice where possible. Zoom phone calls and other video conferencing technology will continue to be available at all our homes to facilitate remote communication between residents and their loved ones.
The revised visitation rules are summarised for your convenience below:
Visiting PAC Residential Aged Care Homes as per the Industry Code:
- Visitors include any person a resident chooses to see including their family, family of choice, friends, religious or spiritual advisors. Children under 16 are only be allowed by exception.
- Residents have the right to choose to NOT have visitors and their consent will be obtained for visits.
- All visits will be prebooked to ensure there are not too many visitors on site at one time and that they can meet in designated areas of the care home. Sites will maintain set visiting hours.
- Social distancing measures will apply to all visitors keeping 1.5m from residents or staff at all times.
Visiting times will now be:
- 30 minutes at a time within rooms (recommended duration for the virus to not be spread)
- Outdoor areas – visits of up to 60 minutes duration.
- Each site will only have one entrance open to allow for appropriate screening measures.
- Sites will continue to utilise technology options to facilitate social interconnectedness where visits are not possible
- No one should enter a PAC service if they are feeling unwell including sore throat, cough or have signs of respiratory symptoms. If showing any these signs visitors will not be permitted entry.
- Temperature checking will occur before admission to the site is granted. If the temperature is above 37.5 entry will not be granted.
All visitors including essential health providers and essential contractors will be asked at every occasion of visiting:
- Have you been overseas or travelled on a cruise ship in the last 14 days?
- Have you been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
- Are you in close contact with or caring for someone who is currently unwell?
- Have you currently or within the last 7 days been unwell or been aware of any of the following symptoms: fever, night sweats or chills, cough, runny nose, sore or scratchy throat, shortness of breath.
- Staff will observe hand washing on entry, every time for every visitor
- Visitors must sign the visitor book and have their temperature recorded next to their name. Good record keeping of visitors is required by services in case tracing is required.
- All persons entering the home must be vaccinated for influenza (FluVax) and a record of it will need to be produced and kept on site at the home.
Other access measures
- A designated area of the home will be made available for visitors to meet with the consumer, such as a room near the entry foyer to avoid visitors walking through the home.
- Surfaces within the designated area will be cleaned between visitor groups.
- Visits in room are allowed, in accordance with the Industry Code. However, if the resident is in a shared room, the designated area should be used for visitations.
- Visit duration will be monitored and visitors to be informed when the visit duration is over.
There are certain circumstances where longer visits of up to 2 hours are possible on application to the site manager:
- For visitations to residents who have a clearly established and regular pattern of involvement from visitors contributing to their care and support. These ongoing visits must be facilitated in accordance with the resident’s care plan; and agreed with PAC
- End of life care situations
- For those that have travelled long distances to visit
- Other circumstances as determined and agreed by PAC
The Industry Code will be reviewed in 3 weeks and regularly thereafter. PAC will align our regular reviews to these timeframes. We will advise of any changes when they happen. A copy of the code can be found at https://www.cota.org.au/policy/aged-care-reform/agedcarevisitors/
Visiting will return to normal practices after the COVID pandemic is declared over.
Once again we would like to thank our residents and their families for their ongoing co-operation during this extremely challenging time in Australian history and if you have any questions, please contact your local service manager.
Paul Sadler, CEO