On Friday 24 April you may have heard the Prime Minister warn aged providers that if facilities do not allow visitors to aged care homes that the Commonwealth will step in and they may force facilities to apply for exemptions. He did acknowledge there would be situations where a ban on visitors was necessary for the safety of residents and staff and stated that there were valid reasons for some exemptions. There was no detail provided about what criteria would be used to consider an exemption.
I want to share with you again our reasons for placing our four facilities into lockdown on 1 April. We wanted to limit the number of people entering our facilities as we were aware that the Canterbury Bankstown local government area was in the top 4 areas of NSW for the number of positive coronavirus cases. At the same time as we made our decision another local Bankstown aged care provider had 4 people test positive and we felt the risk of allowing visitors was too great.
As at 8pm on 21 April 2020 the information available to us highlighted that the Canterbury Bankstown local government area (LGA) was now ranked 9th in NSW for having the highest number of positive cases. There are 101 local government areas in NSW so being 9th places our LGA in the top 10% of highest number of positive cases. Moving from 4th highest in the state to 9th is a move in the right direction however I know we would all like it to be even lower.
Following Mr Morrison’s statement we are now unclear if being in the top 10% would be considered a high risk and would qualify for an exemption to the visiting restrictions. We will be seeking clarification on this important issue from the health authorities on Monday 27 April and should be in a position to provide you with a clear answer about this by Tuesday 28 April.
When we do resume allowing visitors to our facilities the hours will need to be restricted to times when we have staff available to take temperatures, check your vaccination status (after 1 May) and review declarations we need everyone to sign each time. There is no additional funding from the Commonwealth for the additional requirements they have forced providers to put in place but with the significant costs of personal protective equipment which we have purchased our expenses have risen enormously, and additional staffing for administrative processes is not feasible.
Can I also remind you that under Government order, from 1 May 2020, we cannot allow entrance to anyone who has not provided evidence of a 2020 flu vaccination. We urgently need families to get a copy of their vaccination certificates to us, and these can be emailed to [email protected] or post a copy (please keep the original) to Bankstown City Aged Care, PO BOX 82 GEORGES HALL NSW 2198 or bring it with you on your first visit.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and understanding. Many of you have written to us thanking us for keeping your loved ones safe and your words mean a lot to our staff who have been working tirelessly every day in these challenging times. We will continue to offer visits on compassionate grounds whilst we remain in our current lockdown period.