Changes to COVID-19 vaccine recording and reporting requirements in aged care – new reporting starts 27 July 2021
With the recent amendments to the Accountability Principles 2014 and Records Principles 2014, the requirements have not only expanded to in-home and community aged care providers, but the scope of recorded and reported information has widened to include the COVID-19 vaccination status of residential aged care residents as well. We previously addressed the COVID-19 vaccine recording and reporting requirements for approved providers of residential aged care (RAC) which began on 15 June 2021.
What are the new requirements for RAC providers?
In addition to recording and reporting the COVID-19 vaccination status of service staff (as covered in our previous article), as a RAC provider, you must:
- start collecting records of the COVID-19 vaccination status of residents who have voluntarily informed you of their status (since 13 July 2021)
- start reporting to the Department of Health, via the My Aged Care provider portal, about the number of residents who have voluntarily informed you that they have received COVID-19 vaccinations (from 27 July 2021 and on each subsequent Tuesday, unless the numbers are the same as the last report).
RAC providers include:
- approved providers of residential aged care facilities
- providers of Multi-Purpose Services (MPS)
- flexible aged care providers of Short Term Restorative Care delivered in a residential aged care setting
- providers of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFACP) who operate residential aged care services.
What are the requirements for in-home and community aged care providers?
For providers of Home Care Packages (HCP) and Short Term Restorative Care services in-home or community settings, you must:
- start collecting records of the COVID-19 vaccination status of service staff who have voluntarily informed you of their status (since 13 July 2021)
- start reporting to the Department of Health, via the My Aged Care provider portal, about the number of service staff who have voluntarily informed you that they have received COVID-19 vaccinations (from 27 July 2021 and on each subsequent Tuesday, unless the numbers are the same as the last report).
Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and NATSIFACP service providers for in-home and community settings are not required to record and report vaccination statuses at this stage. This requirement is being deferred for these providers to work with the Department of Health to enable them to put the relevant systems and processes in place for reporting.
What else do providers need to know?
The definition of ‘service staff’ has not changed
Service staff, for an aged care service, means staff (including volunteers and contractors) who access, or are reasonably likely to access, any premises where the operation or administration of the service occurs. In reporting to the Department of Health, providers should only count a person once (even if someone works across multiple sites).
For residential aged care settings, this includes those working at a residential aged care facility who are responsible for resident care, support and services for residents, and maintenance and administration, such as nursing and personal care staff, administration staff, and kitchen, cleaning, laundry and garden staff.
For in-home and community aged care settings, this includes those who deliver aged care services to people in their homes and in the community, as well as those who work at your business premises.
You are still not required to record and report any ‘personal information’
The commentary in our previous article regarding personal information remains relevant. The Department of Health is only interested in vaccination data at an aggregated and de-identified level (and not ‘personal information’ for the purposes of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)) to assist with pandemic preparedness planning. You are only to report:
- the total number of service staff (and residents, if applicable) at each aged care service
- the number of service staff (and residents, if applicable) who have voluntarily informed you that they have received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
- the number of service staff (and residents, if applicable) who have voluntarily informed you that they have received all required doses of a COVID‑19 vaccine.
You may wish to conduct weekly anonymous surveys of service staff to collect this information, but you should have processes in place to ensure you receive accurate responses. For example, you should clearly communicate that a new survey is conducted each week and even if a person responded the previous week, they must respond again.
However, for RAC providers:
- existing records in resident care notes about whether the resident has received or declined to receive a COVID-19 vaccination (including through the Commonwealth’s in-reach clinics) is personal information and must be treated as such. RAC providers could gather the relevant numbers from these records (as long as they are up-to-date) without conducting further surveys
- it may be reasonable for you to start recording the vaccination status of your service staff, including their personal information, to work towards the 17 September 2021 mandatory COVID-19 vaccination deadline.
For in-home and community providers, you may form the view that recording which staff members are vaccinated would better assist you with pandemic preparedness planning, in which case you must comply with the applicable privacy laws.
The failure to report could result in regulatory action by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
While the Department of Health may take a softer approach at first by following up with non-complying providers, the Department has advised that ongoing failures to report will be referred to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) for an appropriate regulatory response.
Reporting requirements will change on 30 June 2022
You must continue to report the above information each subsequent Tuesday until 30 June 2022 (unless the numbers since the last report have not changed).
From 30 June 2022 onwards, the number of service staff (and residents, if applicable) who have received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will no longer need to be reported, but the number of service staff (and residents, if applicable) who voluntary inform you that they have received the annual seasonal influenza vaccination and all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for the calendar year will need to be reported.
The frequency of these reports will change to an annual reporting day on 30 June each year.
From 17 September 2021, it will be mandatory for all residential aged care workers to have received as a minimum, a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
The Federal Government have announced they are working with the states and territories to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements for residential aged care workers through public health orders.
We have not seen any published orders for residential aged care workers to date. However, based on the orders we have seen for quarantine, airport and transport workers, it is possible that RAC providers, at least in NSW, will be responsible for ensuring their staff do not attend work without receiving at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with penalties for both the employer and worker for not complying with their obligations under the orders.
We will provide more insight into the residential aged care mandatory vaccination requirements and their interactions with employment issues in a future article.
In the meantime, RAC providers may consider applying for the Residential Aged Care COVID-19 Employee Vaccination Support Grant program to assist with supporting staff to receive COVID-19 vaccinations off-site and at general practices. The grant is currently open until 14:00, 29 October 2021.
More tips for providers
In addition to the previous tips we provided:
- Fact sheets from the Department of Health are available for providers to share with staff and/or residential care recipients.
- Keep records of vaccination status information (that contains personal information) in a secure location and ensure access to the records is on a ‘need to know’ basis.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine recording and reporting requirements, see the Department of Health’s website.
Do you require further guidance on the amendments?
We are experienced with drafting internal communications and APP 5 collection statements as well as advising on the privacy risks associated with handling personal information.
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