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Concerns for residents’ health as COVID outbreaks grow in SA’s aged care facilities

18 January 22

COTA SA has expressed serious concerns to SA Health and the Premier about the management of COVID-19 outbreaks in our aged care system with increased anxiety and confusion among residents, families, staff and carers.

COTA SA chief executive Jane Mussared said with more than a third of the State’s aged care homes currently in lockdown, and the anticipation of more to come, providers are being tested like never before despite their goodwill and best intentions.

The balance between the potential for harm caused by a bewildering and lonely lockdown and the risks of COVID-19 need to reflect contemporary South Australia where human rights matter and lockdown must only ever be a last resort.

As the peak body representing the needs of older people, COTA SA continues to receive feedback from older people and their families relating to the interpretation and experience of what a ‘lockdown’ means for aged care residents.

This includes:

  • Some aged care providers choosing to prohibit visitors altogether despite an agreement by peak bodies to the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-191 that even in an outbreak a person should have access to one essential visitor.
  • No agreed maximum limits on room confinement, with feedback that their loved ones have been confined to their room for weeks, despite having no symptoms or testing positive to COVID-19.
  • Staffing being so limited in some facilities that residents are not being assisted to connect with family via phone or Facetime and willing family members not able to support in providing care.
  • Asymptomatic and non-COVID-positive residents not being able to leave a facility to visit loved ones.

“The ambiguity that continues to exist around managing such outbreaks along with the shortage of staff contributes to a melting pot of challenges that need urgent attention,” Ms Mussared said.

“COTA SA is of course very mindful of the extreme stress on aged care providers and workers and on health staff which is over and above what was an already significant workload. We thank them for their focus and dedication.

“While there is considerable goodwill and intent, there is an inordinate amount of time spent chasing testing, PPE, staff and in understanding rule changes. This reduces and compromises the time and innovation spent in care and in facilitating decent life outcomes for aged care residents.

“As a society we cannot ask aged care residents to do isolation tougher and for longer than we have asked of any other group in South Australia.

“We need to ensure the management plan for aged care strikes a better balance between the safety of the residents and their emotional wellbeing and we look forward to the leadership of the State and Federal Governments to ensure a better balance for aged care residents as a matter of urgency.”

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