COVID-19: Support for aged care

Information for GPs and residential aged care facilities.

Page last updated: 3:00pm, 20 September 2021

Our role in aged care is to:

  • improve access to GP care for residents
  • improve the connection between GPs, residential aged care facilities (RACFs) and hospital services
  • increase access to mental health supports for residents and staff.

We are working closely with our Expert Advisory Group and the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.

Our role in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in aged care is facilitating communications between RACFs, vaccination providers, GPs, hospitals and other local health providers, and state and federal health authorities.

  • Our key focus areas

    Clinical leadership and advice

    • Formation of a COVID-19 Aged Care Expert Advisory Group, Chaired by Dr Jagdeesh Dhaliwal

    Building strategic relationships and networks

    • Strategic meetings with the Australian Department of Health, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre
    • Advocating for improved communication, coordination and processes with GPs and mental health services working in residential aged care facilities (RACFs)

    Mapping RACF preparedness, response, and recovery plans

    • Conducting a needs assessment of all 130+ facilities in our region to identify needs and issues and to connect with the GPs who provide care to their residents

    Establishing a GP community of practice/peer-learning network

    • Survey of GPs to identify those working in aged care and connect them to the community of practice/peer-learning network
    • Providing opportunities for GP education and peer networking; planning a webinar series in conjunction with Victorian Primary Health Networks to ensure consistent messaging where it applies across the state; PHN-based learning networks to identify and address local issues

    Enabling system coordination

    • Facilitating joint meetings and case conferences with GPs, RACFs and local hospital in-reach services to determine clear communication pathways and support requirements

    Development of resources

    • This page on the NWMPHN website for information, advice, and links for GP working with RACFs
    • Maintaining the COVID-19 Aged Residential Care Assessment and Management HealthPathway to support GP management of COVID-19 in RACFs
    • Developing advice/tip sheets to help GPs and RACFs plan for outbreaks
    • Developing a strategy to maximise communications with all GPs working in RACFs

    Enabling access to mental health supports

    • Commissioning mental health services for residents and staff of RACFs
  • Our role in the COVID-19 vaccines rollout

    Primary Health Networks are the primary contact point for residential aged care facilities (RACFs) during the COVID-19 vaccines rollout. Aged care residents and staff are eligible to be vaccinated from Phase 1A of the rollout.

    Our role is facilitating communications between:

    • RACFs
    • the vaccination workforce provider (Aspen Medical)
    • local hospitals, including in-reach services
    • GPs and other local health providers
    • state and federal health authorities.

    It is critical that we can contact all RACFs in our region quickly to help solve any issues that may arise during the delivery and administration of vaccines.

    As per the Australian Department of Health’s clinical governance requirements, each RACF must establish a Clinical Lead (for example: a registered nurse) who is responsible for managing the vaccine program at the site. This Clinical Lead is responsible for liaising with their local Primary Health Network (us) and the immunisation provider.

    If your facility has not already done so, please designate a Clinical Lead and have them contact Christine Ferlazzo by email to christine.ferlazzo@nwmphn.org.au

    More information for aged care providers is available on this page and our COVID-19 Support for Aged Care page.

  • Expert Advisory Group

    A new Aged Care Expert Advisory Group (EAG) has been convened to inform our response to COVID-19 in aged care facilities.

    The group includes GPs, pharmacists, hospital residential-in-reach representatives, residential aged care facility representatives and the Australian Department of Health. The group is Chaired by Dr Jagdeesh Singh Dhaliwal, a GP with many years’ experience working in aged care settings.

    EAG members

    Chair

    • Dr Jagdeesh Dhaliwal, GP and Medical Director, Aged Care GP

    NWMPHN Executives

    • Janelle Devereux, Executive Director, Health Systems Integration
    • Jagjit Dhaliwal, Executive Director, Service Development and Reform

    GP representatives

    • Dr Tony Bartone
    • Dr Robert Hurley
    • Dr Terry Ahern
    • Dr Jo-Ann Silva

    Pharmacy representatives

    • Jarrod McMaugh, Director, Capital Chemist and Project Pharmacist, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
    • Dr Jenny Gowan, Consultant Pharmacist, Gowan & Associates Pty Ltd and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

    Residential aged care representatives

    • Heather Gray, CEO of Dorothy Impey Home
    • Heather Rota, McKenzie Aged Care

    Residential in-reach representative, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne

    • Dean Jones, General Manager Subacute, Aged Care, Home and Community Services, St Vincent’s Hospital

    Australian Department of Health representative

    • Annabel Thorpe Acting State Manager, Victoria-Tasmania, Australian Department of Health

    NWMPHN project management

    • Sue Merritt
  • Victorian Aged Care Response Centre

    The Australian Government has established the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre to improve the coordination of the response across governments and to improve access to health care for residents.

    North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) is working with this new response centre, the Australian and Victorian governments and other stakeholders to ensure GPs have the information they need to maintain care for their patients in aged care facilities.

    A key focus for NWMPHN is to ensure the general practice voice is heard by other stakeholders.

  • Communications to aged care providers

Below is a summary of key information, resources and links including localised resources for GPs and RACFs in the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) region.

COVID-19 vaccine information

  • Aged care readiness toolkit

    The Australian Department of Health has published a readiness toolkit for residential aged care facilities to help prepare for the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and obtaining and recording consent for residents.
  • Aged care resource pack

    The Australian Department of Health has published a resource pack for residential aged care providers, workers, residents, carers and families relating to the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out.

  • Proof of vaccination for aged care workers

    COVID-19 vaccinations are now mandatory for residential aged care workers. A fact sheet for residential aged care providers on reporting COVID-19 vaccinations and exemptions is available on the Australian Department of Health website.

    What to do if a worker’s COVID-19 vaccination status is not showing on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR)

    If a worker has received their COVID-19 vaccination but it is not yet showing on their Immunisation history Statement, it may be because the vaccine provider has not uploaded the person’s vaccination record to the AIR.

    As a first step, providers and facilities can call the AIR on 1800 653 809 (8:00am–5:00pm, Monday to Friday AEST) and Human Services will prioritise update of the worker’s vaccination record.

    If your workforce was vaccinated on site by a Commonwealth vaccine provider, and a worker’s vaccination status is not yet appearing on their Immunisation History Statement, please contact the vaccine provider directly. Contact details for vaccine providers are available in the Australian Department of Health fact sheet.

    You will need to provide the individual’s full name, Medicare number and date of vaccination at your facility.

    If a worker was vaccinated at an alternate site, such as a GP or state and territory run clinic, providers should assist their workers in contacting the vaccine provider and requesting the vaccination record be uploaded to their Immunisation History Statement.

     

Allied health services for RACFs

  • Group physical therapy to residents in aged care facilities affected by COVID-19

    NWMPHN has commissioned a new $6.5 million program, funded by the Australian Department of Health, to deliver group therapy programs to eligible RACFs.

    This program is aimed at improving the physical function of residents at risk of deconditioning due to COVID-19 restrictions. Multiple allied health providers have now been commissioned to start delivering this program, and eligible RACFs will soon be contacted by their appointed allied health provider to discuss next steps.

    Learn more.

    For more information, please email alicia.zaniewska@nwmphn.org.au

Mental health services for aged care residents

  • Free psychological support services

    Free psychological support is available to residents in aged care facilities in our region. This service is delivered by Better Place Australia and commissioned by NWMPHN.

    The service is for residents at risk of or experiencing mild to moderate mental health concerns. This could include residents living with anxiety or depression, or who are experiencing social isolation, as well as new residents transitioning into residential care.

    How to refer

    To enquire or refer to the service please contact:

    Rhonda Withers
    Better Place Australia
    P: (03) 9556 5333
    E: Rhonda.withers@betterplace.com.au

    • Referrals to the Better Place Australia psychological support service can be made by the resident’s GP or by a registered nurse of the facility, with the consent of the resident (or a resident’s next of kin).
    • Once a referral is received, Better Place Australia will contact the residential aged care facility to make arrangements with the facility and to set up an appointment with the resident.

    How psychological support is delivered to residents

    • Experienced mental health practitioners including mental health nurses, mental health social workers, and psychologists will provide psychological support to residents.
    • Services will be offered by phone, telehealth, or face-to-face (when it is possible and safe to do so).
    • Services can be provided on an individual basis and/or through group sessions with other residents (if appropriate).
    • The service may be suitable for some residents with dementia, but it is not an alternative to the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) for residents who are experiencing changes in behaviour that affect their care or carers. DBMAS can be contacted for advice or to make a referral on 1800 699 799.

Mental health services for aged care workers

  • New mental health support service for residential aged care workers

    NWMPHN has commissioned APMHA HealthCare to provide a low intensity mental health program tailored for staff employed in RACFs in our region. This program is available to all staff in all 132 residential aged care facilities in the NWMPHN region.

    APMHA HealthCare delivers:

    • time-limited low intensity mental health services provided in a small group setting (either face-to-face within RACFs, or virtually for individual staff wanting to participate and who work in different RACFs) for aged care staff working in residential aged care
    • one-on-one brief intervention (2-4 sessions) counselling and coaching via COVIDsafe delivery including telehealth for individual aged care workers
    • mental health literacy/awareness raising and building of self-care skills
    • promotion of help seeking behaviours and increased awareness of services available to support wellbeing, including face-to-face and telehealth options as well as digital options
    • referral to more intensive mental health interventions as required.

    To access this service, facilities or staff can go to the Staff Access and Wellbeing Program (SWAP) website at: apmha.com.au/swap

    Or

    Simply call 0456 969 934 to speak to our friendly staff about your needs between 9am – 5pm Mon-Fri

    Or

    You can also email monique@apmha.com.au or sharyn@apmha.com.au

NWMPHN resources

RACGP resources

  • Deprescribing

    The RACGP has developed an aged care clinical guide (Silver Book) for deprescribing where appropriate. For example, reduce the number of dose times in 24 hours to reduce exposure of staff.

    View the guide

  • Preparing for COVID 19 in aged care (webinar)

    The RACGP held a webinar on 27 August 2020: Preparing for your first COVID-19 case in aged care – Lessons from Melbourne. Presenters included Dr M Imran Marzook, Dr Jagdeesh Singh Dhaliwal, Dr Cathy Parsons, Dr Paul Yates and Dr Nicholas Jones.

    View the webinar

  • Home-care guidelines for adult patients with mild COVID-19

    The RACGP has developed this guide for GPs to support them in providing home-based care in a private residential home (including public or community housing) for adult patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

    View the guide

Palliative care

Medication management

  • Supplying medicines to RACFs: requirements for pharmacists

    A summary of mechanisms available to pharmacists to lawfully supply Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 poisons to residential aged care services is available on the health.vic website.

  • Dexamethasone and COVID-19

Government resources

Other resources

  • Communicating with RACF residents during COVID-19

    The following overseas resources may help local GPs effectively communicate with RACF residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce

    The Taskforce is supporting Australia’s health care professionals with continually updated, evidence-based clinical guidelines.

    Links

  • Strategies to promote access to medications during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Safer Care Victoria COVID-19 screening tool for RACFs

    Use this screening tool to identify typical and atypical signs of COVID-19 in aged care residents.

    Links