Aged care providers with COVID-19 cases, and Department, must be open and transparent to ensure public confidence

The Department of Health and aged care providers themselves must be open and transparent about cases of COVID-19 in aged care facilities to increase confidence in the aged care system for residents and their families, and for the public, Council on the Ageing said today.

COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said the lack of transparency around transmission of the disease within aged care facilities and the response of providers is a significant trust issue for the community.

Mr Yates said the community would understand if COVID-19 cases have occurred in a facility if they know it’s being well managed and staff are well prepared and practiced in managing the outbreak.

“Aged care in Australia has historically been far too opaque about quality, complaints and other issues, and that’s a major problem that creates a lack of trust among the community,” he said.

“The worst thing an individual provider or the department should be doing is keeping the locations with COVID quiet, because the community will find out, and so will the media.

“You can’t expect to keep COVID-10 out of every nursing home with such high levels of community transmission, but you can manage it properly if it happens – and people need that information so they can confidently assess which facilities are managing the situation properly, and which aren’t.”

Mr Yates said he is confident that the vast majority of aged care staff are getting the training and support they need to be COVID-19 prepared but he remains concerned that some are still not taking enough precautions and are not ready to manage an outbreak if it does occur.

“I am pleased the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has stepped up the pressure on providers to be ready and to follow all guidelines. That includes not just having a COVID-19 response plan, but actively rehearsing their incident response, including how they will communicate with families.

“Unless you have practised what you are going to do, in a hands-on way, you don’t have a real plan.”I encourage every provider to share information promptly and openly with families, with the community, and with regulators. They also need to learn from the experience in Victoria and apply that learning to the rest of the country.

“During the first wave of COVID I was concerned the aged care sector was congratulating itself when the real reason we hadn’t had more serious outbreaks was the very low rate of transmission in the community. Regrettably this has proved to be the case in Victoria right now.”

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