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Advice for non-health residential facilities

Who is at risk?

For many people COVID-19 causes a relatively mild illness. However, it can make some people very ill and, more rarely, the disease can be fatal. These people include:

  • people aged 70 years and over
  • people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions
  • people with compromised immune systems; and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over.

Many residents and some staff and volunteers in care facilities may fit into this category. There are currently no vaccines or specific treatment for this disease so putting in place increased measures to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to vulnerable residents, staff and volunteers is very important.

A risk assessment needs to be carried out for any staff or volunteers to determine what type of care they can safely provide during the COVID-19 pandemic.Staff and volunteers who are most at risk of getting really sick from COVID-19 should not provide direct care to residents. Attendance at the facility should be limited to essential staff and volunteers who are well and have a low risk of becoming ill from COVID-19.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

Follow these simple steps to help stop the spread of germs:

  • Staff and volunteers should wash their hands often with soap and running water or use an alcohol-based hand rub. They should also help residents to do the same.
  • Make sure there are enough tissues and bins available.
  • Help residents keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from others where possible.
  • Avoid any non-essential personal care activities that need direct contact with residents.
  • Clean often during the day, paying particular attention to frequently touched surfaces in common areas.
  • Any staff and volunteers who are sick should not enter the facility until they are well again.
  • Limit visitors as much as possible. Visitors who are sick should not be in the facility. Facilities should keep a log of any visitors to the facility.
  • Residents who have COVID-19 symptoms should be isolated into a single room straight away. Arrange a medical review as soon as possible.

Preparing for a confirmed case in your facility

All residential care facilities should prepare for the possibility of a confirmed, probable or suspected case. The Australian Government has published Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia (PDF).

All residential care facilities should use these guidelines to inform their plans.

If a resident or staff member is suspected of having COVID-19 you must notify your local public health unit straight away.

Other considerations

When preparing or managing your facility in the event of a suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, follow the below advice.

Personal protective equipment

You don't need to wear a mask, unless you are interacting with a resident with respiratory symptoms. If a resident has respiratory symptoms, you should ask them to wear a surgical mask when they are in the same room as other people.

Where possible, staff and volunteers should wear a surgical mask, long sleeved fluid-resistant gown or apron, protective eyewear and gloves when providing care to a resident with respiratory symptoms.

If a resident is confirmed to have COVID-19 staff should follow the advice in the Queensland Health Interim infection prevention and control guidelines for the management of COVID-19 in healthcare settings (PDF 942 kB).

Standard precautions should always be followed when cleaning or managing sharps or when coming into contact with body fluids.

If usually available resources, like personal protective equipment, are unavailable, staff may apply to the Australian Government Department of Health for additional supplies by emailing agedcarecovidppe@health.gov.au

Linen management

The handling and laundering of used bed linen, towels and cleaning supplies can result in the virus getting onto the hands or clothing. The risk of getting the disease through touching these items is very low if personal protective equipment is worn. It is recommended that disposable aprons and gloves are worn while handling bed linens and towels. Personal protective equipment needs to be thrown in the general waste bin straight after use. It is important to wash your hands straight after touching soiled laundry as well.

Facilities should have in place approved procedures for the storage and handling of used and cleaned linen and should ensure these are being followed. Approved procedures include:

  • All onsite and offsite facilities that process or launder linens commercially must have documented operating policies consistent with AS/NZS 4146.
  • All used linen should be handled with care to avoid spreading germs to staff or the environment.
  • All linen used for a person with confirmed, probable or suspected COVID-19 infection should be managed as for heavily soiled linen.
  • A resident may continue to manage their own linen if they can show that they follow the basic rules about hygiene and storage and handing of linen.
  • For the transport of linen routine established processes should be used.

Waste disposal

As a non-health facility, most of the waste generated by your facility is non-clinical. The risk of spreading COVID-19 when handling waste is low.

The following guidelines should always be followed when handling waste from a person with confirmed, probable or suspected COVID-19 infection:

  • Place waste inside a sealed disposable bag, followed by a second disposable bag before throwing it in the general refuse bin.
  • Wear gloves when handling any waste.
  • Clean your hands straight after removing waste and taking off gloves.
  • Manage sharps containers as per your normal process.

More information

Last updated: 8 July 2020