ANMF presses Aged Care Minister over COVID-19 response

Weak Feverish Elderly Woman in bed covering her forehead with her arm, trying to rest. Pill bottles in the background.

ANMF Acting Federal Secretary Lori-Anne Sharp probed Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck on last night’s ABC Q+A episode over the federal government’s response to coronavirus in nursing homes following recent deaths triggered by the escalating global crisis.

Ms Sharp queried what steps the government was taking to protect elderly Australians living in nursing homes in the wake of deaths at a NSW aged care facility after a staff member who unknowingly had the virus came into work and infected several residents.

“Tragically we’ve seen three residents die in nursing home from COVID-19 recently,” Ms Sharp told Senator Colbeck to open the special episode, titled The Corona Challenge: Are We Prepared?

“We know that the elderly are much more vulnerable and have co-morbidities and are likely to suffer death if in contact with COVID-19. What is the government doing to stop non-essential visits to nursing homes to prevent the spread of the virus and ultimately, further deaths?”

Responding to the question, Senator Colbeck said in recent days the government had provided advice to the aged sector to make sure current infection control measures were properly in place and called on facilities to limit access and stop all non-essential visits.

“You’re right. We know that older Australians are more susceptible to this disease, to COVID-19 and so there was some considerable advice that was provided from the infectious disease network meeting that occurred last week put out to the industry.”

Grilled further by host Hamish Macdonald on what the measures actually mean in practice, Senator Colbeck said more information would come to hand in coming days to protect senior Australians in nursing homes, many with a range of co-morbidities.

He said the recent deaths demonstrated the significant risk of the coronavirus and that the government had learned a lot from what unfolded.

“Some of the things include, and I know some facilities have been doing this anyway…so who’s coming in? What are their risk factors? Do they have an illness? People who don’t need to be there, don’t come in. Limit your visits. So a range of things.

“It’s actually limiting access to those people who need to be there for certain reasons and saying to others don’t come in if you don’t need to.”

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