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Advice for non-health residential facilities

Who is at risk?

For many people COVID-19 causes a relatively mild illness. Some groups may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 especially if they:

  • have a compromised immune system
  • are aged 70 years and over
  • are a First Nations person aged 50 years or over
  • are living in supported accommodation or group residential settings.

Some people with disability may be at an increased risk because they:

  • have high support needs and higher rates of pre-existing health conditions
  • live in group residential settings, which may increase their risk of contracting the virus
  • may face barriers in accessing healthcare and information
  • may face disruptions to regular medication and services.

These factors may make people with disability more susceptible to contracting the virus. They can also experience more severe symptoms, which may lead to a higher chance of fatality.

Many residents and some staff and volunteers in care facilities may fit into these categories. The best way to protect workers and residents is to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Putting in place increased measures to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to vulnerable residents, staff and volunteers is also very important.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

Follow these simple steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19:

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Staff, volunteers and residents should be tested and isolate if they develop symptoms of COVID-19
  • Any staff and volunteers who are sick should not enter the facility until they are well again.
  • Staff and volunteers should wash their hands often with soap and running water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. They should also help residents to do the same.
  • Make sure there are enough tissues, bins and hand sanitiser 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.
  • Visitors who are sick should not be in the facility. Facilities should use the Check In Qld app to 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 and testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Preparing for a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your facility

All residential care facilities should prepare for the possibility of a confirmed 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

Facilities should plan for the event of multiple close contacts among staff who are required to quarantine and will not be able to attend work. When preparing or managing your facility in the event of a suspected 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 or if it is required by a Public Health Direction. 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 who is in isolation and awaiting COVID-19 test results.

If a resident is confirmed to have COVID-19 the local public health unit will be in contact and can provide advice for how the case and close contacts including staff and visitors will be managed.

Standard precautions should always be followed when cleaning or managing sharps or when there is a risk of 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 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 handling 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 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: 29 September 2021