Royal Commission investigating impact of COVID-19

While aged care providers continue to prepare, adjust and respond to the immediate risks and impacts of COVID-19, the Royal Commission ​​into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Royal Commission) is extending its own investigations into the impact of COVID-19 in Australia.

As an initial step, the Commissioners requested submissions on 28 April 2020 to consider the impacts of COVID-19 on the aged care sector, including on ‘recipients of aged care services, families or supporters of recipients, aged care service providers, and those who work in aged care.’

In a further statement released last week, the Royal Commission expressed that it will:

  • learn how residential aged care facilities such as Newmarch House, Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Opal Care Bankstown responded to the crisis and what more could have been done to support them; and
  • look at how most home care providers and other facilities avoided an outbreak and seek their ideas about how to manage future pandemics or infectious disease outbreaks, including responses from the Australian Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Importantly, the Royal Commission has stated that the focus of the inquiry will be on ‘the lessons that can be learnt for responding to future pandemics or infectious disease outbreaks. The purpose of the inquiry is not to find fault or apportion blame.’​

At this stage, submissions will be accepted until 30 June 2020.

Resident ‘Emergency Leave’ amendments now law

The Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Emergency Leave) Bill 2020 (Cth) was passed in the House of Representatives and Senate on 14 May 2020 to provide aged care residents with a new form of ‘Emergency Leave’.

In a statement released last week, the Minister for Aged Care, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck expressed that:

‘During the COVID-19 pandemic, some aged care residents have temporarily relocated to live with family, to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus … Most of these residents are likely to exhaust their 52 days before the pandemic passes, leading to extra costs on them or their families. The Government recognises that this isn’t fair or desirable. We have amended the Aged Care Act to give aged care residents the option of taking additional leave during an emergency.’

Once passed, the Bill was quick to receive Royal Assent on 15 May 2020 to amend the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) and the Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997 (Cth).

Going forward, providers should:

  • ensure that template agreements for residential care and service handbooks are updated to adequately explain the new entitlement to ‘Emergency Leave’; and
  • as detailed in our recent post, continue to manage leave in light of any applicable Government Directions.

The new compilations of the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) and Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997 (Cth) have not yet been released, but are expected to be registered shortly.

We will continue to update our blog with critical changes for providers as they occur.