Providers with low vaccination rates to receive unannounced visits

Published on 20 June 2024 (Last updated on 11 July 2024)

Low vaccination rates in aged care have resulted in surprising action by the Quality and Safety Commission. [Shutterstock]

Just days after the Government shared new documents to help providers talk to residents about the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission put everyone on notice, revealing unannounced site visits will be conducted.

Residential care homes with low COVID-19 vaccination rates are the most likely to receive an unannounced visit as the Commission looks to determine why there are low vaccination rates and what efforts are being made to improve them.

In a statement released by the Commission on Thursday morning, they said there is no excuse for any residential aged care service to be underprepared for COVID-19. 

“More than 4 years after COVID-19 was first detected in Australia, every aged care provider should know what they need to do to reduce the risk of, prepare for, and minimise the impact of a COVID-19 outbreak,” the statement read.

“Providers are expected to have in place the necessary systems and processes to fulfil their obligations and safeguard residents’ health and wellbeing as far as possible.

“Ensuring residents’ easy access to periodic COVID-19 vaccinations is a vital component of a provider’s comprehensive COVID-19 management plan.”

Just over 40% of aged care residents have received a COVID-19 booster within the last six months. Low influenza vaccination rates have also been a cause for concern.

The Government has been hot on the heels of aged care providers because of low vaccination rates for some time. Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson, was joined by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, in penning a letter to all board chairs to express their concerns over the matter.

Ms Anderson has backed up her previous statement by calling out providers who have struggled to make headway with vaccination rates. She said it raises questions about whether those in charge are focusing enough on protecting residents from serious disease.

“We are concerned about the proportion of aged care residents who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations. Timely access to vaccination should be part of routine clinical care for every older person,” the Commissioner said.

“Supporting residents to understand the benefits of vaccination and to get vaccinated is a responsibility of residential aged care providers, working with local General Practitioners (GPs), community pharmacists, and the local Primary Health Network.”

Recently released data shows that just under 4% of facilities have very low vaccination rates (under 10% over the past 12 months). Overall, 27% of facilities recorded vaccination rates below 50% and a similar percentage achieved 80% or higher. 

Providers struggling to make ground on their vaccination rates can expect to be visited by auditors, while the Commissioner will also write to them with a reminder of their obligations. 

“Where we find that a provider lacks interest and/or capability to take the necessary action, and their ongoing inattention to this vital preventative measure is placing residents in harm’s way, there will be regulatory consequences,” the Commissioner said.

“I urge anyone living in aged care, their family and friends to carefully consider getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and keeping boosters up to date to aid protection against both infection and severe disease. It is also really important for aged care workers to get vaccinated to protect themselves and the older people they care for.”

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
janet anderson
unannounced visit
site visit