Staff and residents at a Western Sydney disability home have potentially been exposed to coronavirus after a worker tested positive.

It’s the first time a COVID-19 infection has been detected within an Australian disability care setting.

Six staff and four residents of the group home in Penrith operated by Greystanes Disability Services were in quarantine on Tuesday after one of the workers, who also worked at an aged care facility in Western Sydney, tested positive to COVID-19.

Residents are being isolated in their rooms but won’t be tested unless they show symptoms, a NSW health department spokeswoman told CCR. Staff are self-isolating in their homes.

Race to develop NDIS workforce plan

It comes as the COAG Disability Reform Council said work is being fast-tracked to develop an NDIS workforce plan to help buffer the sector from coronavirus.

“Ensuring the ongoing viability of the disability sector is critical during this time,” the council said in a communique following a telepresence meeting on April 9.

The communique notes that work is ongoing to plan for an outbreak of coronavirus in a disability support setting and says the NDIA is planning for a range of potential scenarios and modelling the financial and other supports that will be required.

“This planning will continue to be informed by the health advice provided through the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and will be provided to disability ministers out-of-session, prior to their next meeting in early May 2020,” the communique says.

The council says coronavirus has caused a significant shift in its immediate priorities.

“The Council’s key focus during this time is to ensure people with disability and their carers remain safe and healthy, and continue to receive the supports and services that meet their daily living needs,” it says.

“The Council is also committed to working together to ensure the significant improvements that have been achieved by and for people with disability since the commencement of the NDIS in 2013 are not lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Management plan progresses

The council also welcomed work on a management and operational plan for people with disability being developed by a new national advisory group.

The group was established at the beginning of April and has since met three times to develop a draft plan which is being considered by the AHPPC.

 A health department spokesman told CCR a number of actions in the draft plan have already been initiated, including infection control training, improved communication about the coronavirus outbreak, and mobilising expertise to help health care workers provide better care for people with disability.

Access to PPE

The communique also notes that disability providers can now get access to to the National Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Emergency Stockpile via a dedicated email at [email protected]

The health department says NDIS providers and self-managing participants who use PPE as a usual part of their support arrangements should continue to access PPE through their usual means.

However they can approach the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) if they have run out and haven’t been able to find PPE on the open market.

Providers who deliver personal care that requires close physical contact where there is an immediate threat to continuity of safe quality care due to lack of access to PPE, or where the participant has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, will be prioritised, the department says.

More information on coronavirus for providers is available here.

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