Aged Care Minister Colbek’s Response to Covid 19

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On Friday 22nd August the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 in Aged Care Facilities interviewed the Aged Care Minister, Minister Colbek, for the second time.

He began well by thanking all workers in aged care facilities – personal carers, nurses, cleaners and cooks. He stated that they deal with confronting situations, that they can be scared for their own health but continue to turn up to work.

He said “We need them. They are at times unfairly scrutinised.” He went on to claim that the government …” can always do better.We will continue to work to be prepared to have resources as best we can, particularly to support the Victorian government to get the community transition under control.”

Then he stumbled. As he was being questioned about whether his department was doing its job protecting the elderly from COVID-19 in federally funded and regulated nursing homes the Senator was unable to answer how many residents had died in Victorian aged care facilities and how many current active cases there were.

Eventually a staff member told the inquiry that as of 8:00am on Thursday, 20 August 254 residents in aged care facilities had died due to Covid-19, there were 1811 active cases, with 239 recovered.

According to Anne Connelly of the ABC in her report today the Prime Minister claimed in Parliament Question Time on Monday (24th August) that of the 126 nursing homes affected by Corona Virus in Victoria only 16 have experienced a “significant” impact from COVID-19; four have had a “severe” impact and, as of yesterday morning, the number that have been “significantly impacted has been reduced to three”.

She also reported that Prime Minister Morrison and Aged Care Minister Colbeck spent yesterday’s Question Time arguing that the many plans, emails, guidelines and webinars which were sent to the aged care sector equated to effective preparation and that high levels of community transmission were to blame.

This was obviously in response to the question on Friday in the Senate Hearing where Minister Colbeck was quizzed about what support the federal government gave the aged care sector to help it prepare prior to the community spread of the Corona Virus outbreak.

Minister Colbeck mentioned at the hearing that the federal government were spending $171M for the aged care response to Covid-19 and they had set up a Disability Response centre in Victoria with $15M in funding split between the federal government and Victorian government.

The lives of those most vulnerable in aged care facilities must be given the respect and care they deserve. Ensuring the aged care providers have sufficient information, easy to follow guidelines, staffing support and adequate protective equipment is the job of the government. Both State and Federal governments have a critical role to play and they must work together in harmony to protect the elderly under their umbrella of care.

Jillian Slade is a Placement Consultant for aged care.