Risk Management for Emergency Events in Aged Care

Page last updated: 18 December 2015

This document is in response to questions asked of the Department of Health (the department) by providers of residential aged care and aged care in the community in relation to risk management for emergency events.

Q: What are the responsibilities of providers in an emergency?

A: During an emergency, providers are required to continue to maintain quality care. All providers are required to have plans in place for the management of emergency events. Key elements of these plans should be tested to ensure that people understand their roles and responsibilities and are able to ensure quality of care and services.

Q: Will the department find alternative accommodation in the event of a decision by a provider to relocate or evacuate care recipients?

A: Aged care providers should explore alternative accommodation options as part of their emergency planning process, and where possible make arrangements at a local level.

The department will assist you to identify aged care services or other facilities in your local area that may have vacancies and could be contacted to assist.

Q: How can providers contact the department to access information about accommodation?

A: The department can be contacted on the following numbers:

  • Victoria – 1800 078 709
  • New South Wales/ACT – 1800 852 649
  • South Australia – 1800 288 475
  • Tasmania – 1800 108 196
  • Queensland – 1800 300 125
  • Western Australia – 1800 733 923
  • Northern Territory – 1800 355 348

In the event of an emergency, providers should call 000 or contact their local emergency service.

Q: Will providers be subject to compliance action if care recipients are moved to accommodation which does not meet the standards in line with their care classification, or accommodation that has not been assessed for the purposes of the provision of residential aged care?

A: In an emergency, providers are expected to continue to provide the highest quality care that is reasonable given the circumstances.

Q: Will providers receive additional aged care funding for costs incurred during an emergency (e.g. additional staffing and/or additional or specific equipment, supplies, and alternative accommodation)?

A: No. Providers are responsible for meeting the care needs of their care recipients. Additional aged care funding will not routinely be provided by the department. Emergency response funding may be made available by Commonwealth and/or State and Territory government decision following extraordinary emergency events.

Q: Will additional aged care funding be made available to providers for capital works or equipment to prepare for emergency situations?

A: No. Providers are responsible for meeting the care needs of their care recipients, including the provision of appropriate and safe accommodation. Additional funding will not be provided for capital works or equipment.

Q: Relocating care recipients imposes extra costs on both the relocating and receiving facilities. Will additional funding or resources be made available to providers for relocating care recipients in line with community warnings (irrespective of whether the emergency is a bushfire)?

A: No. In the event of relocation or evacuation, subsidies will continue to be paid to the provider responsible for the ongoing care of the care recipients. Any arrangements for reimbursing the costs of caring for relocated care recipients should be negotiated between the provider and the provider of alternative accommodation. Provider responsibilities for a care recipient do not transfer to a new provider in the case of a temporary relocation.

Q: What are the expectations of the department, in relation to aged care services assessing risk and responding to different levels of threat in accordance with advice from local emergency authorities?

A: The department expects service providers to assess risk and respond to different levels of threat in accordance with advice from local emergency authorities. The department cannot provide advice or direction on relocation or evacuation as it is not fully aware of the nature of a threat to a service, the vulnerability of the service and its care recipients, or the appropriateness of relocating.

In an emergency situation any decision to relocate or evacuate care recipients should be made in the context of the service’s emergency plan, and in collaboration with local emergency authorities. The service’s emergency plan should be prepared in line with the responsibility of a provider to ensure a safe and secure environment for care recipients, staff and visitors, and be integrated with local emergency management arrangements.

Q: What advice can you provide on whether providers should plan to relocate care recipients on occasions where staff have indicated they will not be able to attend work due to the threat of an emergency?

A: Providers should consider potential staffing pressures resulting from an emergency threat in the development of their emergency plan, and ensure options for sourcing replacement and additional staff are identified within the plan.

Q: How should a provider respond if volunteers do not have a police check or they are unable to substantiate that they have one?

A: In an emergency event people without police checks who volunteer their services can provide assistance, provided that they are supervised to the extent that is reasonable given the circumstances

A provider must not allow a person to work unsupervised as a volunteer unless they are satisfied the person has had a police check that does not record that the person has any precluding offences. A volunteer is defined as a person who is not a staff member and who provides care or other services in circumstances where the person has, or is reasonably likely to have, unsupervised access to care recipients.

Q: What are providers powers and responsibilities if a care recipient refuses to relocate or evacuate?

A: Providers should consider including a clause in agreements enabling them to relocate or evacuate care recipients in emergency situations, and should seek individual legal counsel on the wording of such a clause.

Q: Is it appropriate for providers of home care packages to utilise package funding to assist care recipients to respond to an emergency threat, for example with transportation or accommodation?

A: Yes, providers of home care packages may utilise package funding to cover transportation and/or accommodation costs in emergencies where it would ensure continuity of care for the care recipient.

Q: What are the expectations of the department for providers of community based care?

A: Providers of aged care in the community are expected to assess the risks involved in the continuation of community service provision in the context of an emergency, and plan to maintain, modify or limit service provision in the context of that risk assessment. It is expected that ensuring the safety of service delivery staff will be a significant consideration in developing an emergency response plan, and that plans will be developed in consultation with local emergency response agencies.

As part of the initial and ongoing assessment of service users, community care providers are expected to assess and document service user vulnerability in the context of an emergency event.

Particular consideration should be given to individuals who are:

  • dependent on life-sustaining technologies or aids (oxygen etc);
  • socially or geographically isolated;
  • unlikely to be able to develop or enact a relocation plan without assistance;
  • living in a high risk area (for instance bushfire, flood);
  • living alone and having high care needs or living with an individual with similar or greater level of needs;
  • unable to make an independent decision due to cognitive or other impairment; and/or
  • difficult to make contact with in the event of an emergency (i.e. has limited or unreliable telephone service, or is deaf).

The care plan which is shared with the care recipient should note any specific arrangements that may be put in place by your service.