Deadly aged care influenza (Flu) results paint grim picture

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influenza deaths

 

The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Aged Care, has released the government’s Aged care Influenza review results.

The Australian Government recently released detailed reviews of aged care homes in Victoria and Tasmania that suffered deadly influenza (Flu)outbreaks this winter. The report revealed poor facility management and low staff vaccination rates.

“management errors, especially in infection control”

Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt ordered the review by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency. They reviewed the St Johns facilities in Wangaratta and the Strathdevon facility in Latrobe. Specifically, the review covered the influenza outbreak in August and September.

“These review audits reveal management errors, especially in infection control at the two sites,” Minister Wyatt said. “The flu season affected aged care residents and staff and the homes’ infection control and contingency plans were overwhelmed. Nonetheless, he said, “it was unacceptable”.

low vaccination rates identified

There have been calls for mandatory vaccination. However, others are worried this represents a broader strategy to force vaccination on all Australians.

He further said that “staff vaccination rates in both homes were low, with only around one-third vaccinated ahead of the outbreaks” Worse, “dozens of staff were subsequently struck down with the flu.”

In response, Health Minister Greg Hunt has moved to make it mandatory for aged care facilities to implement flu vaccination programs for staff. In fact, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Murphy is currently examining all options to increase vaccination rates.

These reviews have found that at both sites, the homes’ management did not provide enough additional support and the professional guidance that was required to cope with the outbreak.

Quality Agency is also running staff seminars

Minister Wyatt said the Quality Agency had now greatly increased its focus on the issue of infection control at all aged care facilities.

Results

“The Agency is reviewing infection control practices, including a mandatory survey of all facilities’ outbreak management and staff vaccination rates, which is due for completion next week,” said Minister Wyatt.

“Results will be collated, then the Agency will focus on and engage with all homes which have registered low vaccination rates or difficulties managing the 2017 flu season.”

Facilities need to be prepared in 2018

The Quality Agency is also running staff seminars in every aged care jurisdiction at present, to strengthen quality monitoring around infection control and increase staff and resident vaccinations.

Targeted aged care communication and education materials will be developed for the 2018 influenza season to further promote staff influenza vaccination. All aged care providers have also been asked to review their infection control practices, to ensure that they are well equipped to manage and respond to an outbreak. “Providing safe, quality aged care for our senior Australians is non-negotiable,” Minister Wyatt said. “I am closely monitoring developments, and ensuring all Government-funded aged care facilities are prepared for infectious outbreaks, especially influenza, is a top priority.”

The reports are available at:

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