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Act on visitor restrictions: royal commissioner

A royal commissioner has called for new aged care measures to minimise the unintended harm caused by interventions to protect older adults from the spread of COVID-19.

Chair of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Tony Pagone on Friday issued a reminder that older adults are affected both by the potential to be contract the virus and by the “unintended consequences of the otherwise understandable and reasonable steps which have been taken to ensure for their safety”.

“We have heard, and continue to hear, of many unfortunately unintended consequences flowing from the measures which have been taken to comply with the reasonable restrictions which have been imposed upon us by Government to protect the health and wellbeing of those intended to be protected,” Pagone said.

“Many older people have been restricted in the number and length of family and other visitors who have been allowed to visit them.”

Pagone said providers, government and the community must bear in mind that the measures taken to protect older adults, although designed to help, may be causing them harm.

“There is, therefore, a need that the measures put in place to protect frail older people also deal with the negative aspects of the measures designed to protect them.”

Due to restrictions on visitations, some aged care residents are now missing out on the supplementary care they would otherwise receive from family members.

“The reduction of such visits from family needs to be supplemented by additional measures to ensure a healthy and quality life,” Pagone said.

“This may require urgent measures to deploy suitably qualified personnel to be directed to identifying the new needs, and increased needs, caused by the responses to COVID19.

“It may also need specifically targeted redeployment of qualified personnel to supplement the care, support and wellbeing measures for our vulnerable frail community. It may also require creative measures to supplement the personal human contact that may be restricted or removed during these times: it may require, for example, providing access to electronic devices to enable more constant contact through video platforms where that is feasible and meaningful.”

Pagone also reassured that the royal commission continues its work, though added that it has had to reorganise the way in which it operates.

Late last month, the royal commission announced that it suspended all hearings and workshops due to the spread of COVID-19.

The commissioners said: “Meaningful engagement with the sector is paramount to the work of the royal commission’s inquiry into aged care quality and safety, which is why we have decided to suspend all hearings and workshops.

“We must allow service providers and Government to focus fully on their response to the pandemic.”

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