Vic COVID-19 update: Disability guidance released
What you need to know
- Updated DFFH Management of COVID-19 in disability settings guidance reflects changed contact definitions, eased requirements and important risk management recommendations for all settings
- Providers asked to review outbreak management plans with all workers for prompt implementation, as infections are increasing at alarming rates across the sector
- New quick reference flowchart and outbreak definitions for residential and non-residential settings, including required online outbreak notification form
- Simplified PPE guidance outlines Tier 3 outbreak requirements and Tier 2 recommendations for activities where exposure risk is increased
Disability providers are being urged to follow DFFH Management of COVID-19 in Disability Settings guidance, as positive COVID-19 cases are increasing at alarming rates across the disability sector.
The new guidance documents, which cover all aspects of COVID-19 prevention and outbreak management and reporting for all residential and non-residential settings, include important changes. The government is asking providers to communicate these with all staff to ensure they understand the requirements.
The updated documents were written in consultation with providers and NDS to ensure the guidance reflected the sector’s needs and priorities.
They can be found on the DFFH website: Disability services sector - COVID-19
- Management of COVID-19 in disability settings
- DFFH advice to the disability sector – definition of an outbreak and who to notify
- PPE advice to the disability sector - easy reference flow chart
COVID-19 Outbreak Management
A key component of the Disability settings - COVID-19 guidance [Word] is the move from Pandemic Orders to recommendations for the disability sector. These recommendations support individual organisations to manage COVID-19 risk in a manner appropriate to their context.
The Victorian Government is encouraging providers to continue with appropriate risk mitigation including:
- Use of personal protective equipment, including N95 masks for workers in direct care settings while COVID-19 transmission is widespread
- Early reporting of RAT results, emailing RREMoutbreak@dffh.vic.gov.au and using the COVID-19 outbreak notification form
All Providers are encouraged to review existing COVID-19 prevention plans, policies and procedures ensuring all staff can enact COVID-19 prevention and outbreak management strategies as needed in their specific settings.
Providers are asked to ensure all staff know who they report positive cases to within the organisation and government COVID-19 management teams. The current reporting pathways for positive RATS and outbreaks support timely responses to individual participants during COVID-19 illness and organisational outbreak needs.
Definition of an outbreak and who to notify
The DFFH advice to the disability sector – definition of an outbreak and who to notify [Word] outlines advice for residential and non-residential settings.
An outbreak is defined as:
- two or more residents onsite at any time during their infectious period who have received a positive RAT or PCR test result within seven days of each other
- a group of five or more, made up of residents and staff onsite at any time during their infectious period, who have received a positive RAT or PCR test results within seven days of each other
Non-residential and Community settings
An outbreak may be declared by a local public health unit if:
- five or more staff and/or participants are diagnosed (RAT or PCR test) and
- the cases are linked epidemiologically and
- the cases occurred within seven days from the time the first person was diagnosed.
The guidance outlines two options for participants who are close contacts; highlighting that if a close contact is to return to an activity outside their residence, they must meet requirements which include COVID-19 testing, mask wearing and not visiting hospitals and care facilities.
It is strongly recommended that all close contacts avoid people who are elderly or medically at-risk of severe illness with COVID-19.
Personal Protective Equipment
The updated PPE advice for the disability sector [Word] clearly identifies the full PPE required when working in COVID-positive environments, noting that N95 masks, (not KN95 masks) must be used in these settings.
Tier 2 level of PPE has been included as a recommendation for any direct care work that has an increased risk of exposure to infectious agents due to an inability to socially distance or that involves risk of contamination from body fluids.
Reporting COVID-19 positive RAT
Where to report COVID-19 cases [PDF] is a quick reference flow chart, to assist providers with prompt identification and reporting requirements for positive RAT results.
DFFH is requesting support from providers to assist any non-residential and community services participants to complete the reporting requirement for early identification of cases and linking individuals with positive pathway supports.
Early reporting ensures participants living in the community receive:
- health monitoring of symptoms
- access to medication and equipment
- and experience reduced risk of hospitalisation and serious illness.
Free RAT Supply for TAC
A list of sites that have free rapid antigen tests has been updated and includes eligibility for TAC benefit recipients.
Any providers aware of participants experiencing issues accessing RATs due to their accessibility needs and/or regional/remote location can contact the DLO program which will send free RATs directly. Email: email@example.com
Infection Prevention Control Advice and Response (IPCAR) webinars
Disability support workers can attend free one-hour webinars on infection prevention and control, which are running twice-weekly until the end of June through the Department of Health IPCAR unit.
The webinars are designed for workers in residential, non-residential and community-based settings and cover:
- basic IPC principles and how to apply these relevant to the settings
- question and answers with IPCAR educators in the team
The webinars are an opportunity to share and discuss what is working well on the ground with other service providers.
- Every Wednesday at 11am until the last session on Wednesday 29 June.
- Every Thursday at 11am until the last session on Thursday 30 June.
Registrations are not required and you can find the direct Microsoft Teams links on the website.