This is part of the PM's statement on 18 March 2020:

Aged care facilities must take extra precautions when it comes to visits.

These include -

  • making sure visits are kept short
  • allowing no more than two visitors, including doctors, at a time
  • making sure visits occur in a resident's room, outdoors, or in a specific area they designate - there should be no visiting in communal areas
  • ensuring there are no large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment

For updates, please check the Department of Health advice.

Source: Department of Health - Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups (Section: Advice for aged care facilities and visitors to residents)

Aged Care Act and User Rights Principles

Section 56.1 allows people acting for care recipients to have such access to the service as is specified in the User Rights Principles.

It seems to us that there is no legal basis for the home deny access.

Clause 8 of the User Rights Principles states:

8 Access to residential care service by people acting for care recipients, advocates and community visitors

Access by people acting for care recipients

(1) For paragraph 56-1(k) of the Act, if a care recipient in a residential care service has asked a person to act for the care recipient, the approved provider of the service must allow the person access to the service at any time.

Access by advocates and community visitors

(2)  For paragraph 56-1(l) of the Act, an approved provider of a residential care service must allow a person mentioned in subsection (3) access to the service:

(a)  during normal business hours; or

(b)  if a care recipient to whom the provider provides residential care has asked the person to assist the care recipient—at any time

(3)  For subsection (2), the persons are the following:

(a)  a person acting as an advocate for a body that has been paid an advocacy grant;

(b)  a person acting as a community visitor for a body that has been paid a community visitors grant.

Source: User Rights Principles 2014, Federal Register of Legislation

Questions by correspondence

Q: Can residents legally be "locked up" in a facility (if not infected)?

No. Facilities can go into lockdown, but that doesn't apply in this case. Also, has this resident been tested? You can't assume anyone is not infected. Infections occur quite quickly, so that a negative test result becomes irrelevant very soon.

Q: Can my mum go for a walk?

Yes, but it will need to be in a designated area (by the home), so this would be restricted to the grounds of the home.

Q: Can my mum come out the front door to sit with us?

Yes, if this is within the grounds of the home and within the designated area.

Q: Can we take her to a park or one of her homes for a visit?

Not sure, but given the precautions that are taken by the home, the home might reasonably object. They are under instruction to keep isolate residents. Taking a resident out would be a breach of that isolation.

Q: How will they treat her on return, etc

Not sure, but taking her out puts her at risk and consequently puts other residents at risk. We think it would be unconscionable to take her into the community.

Please note that advice may change at any time. You should always check the Department of Health website for updates.