Monday, 24 August 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Aged Care
I thank the member for her question. The context of the comment is what the questioner has failed to draw attention to. As the Acting Chief Medical Officer pointed out in our joint press conference last Friday when he was asked the same question, what we were referring to at that time was the immediate withdrawal of that workforce. That is what has occurred at the facilities that you have referred to in Victoria. This was complete in a matter of hours when that workforce was withdrawn, and that is the issue that presented the most critical challenge.
It actually is the case that prior to that event, of course, workforce planning had been done for places like St Basil's and other critical facilities that were severely impacted, and with no notice, effectively, of withdrawing that workforce those plans were swung into action and as many aged-care workers were put into that facility as was humanly possible. In other facilities, we were arranging ADF people to go into facilities at about 11 o'clock at night. What was learnt out of the Newmarch process, as well as Dorothy Henderson Lodge, was the need to ensure that, when facilities were dealt with in this way, there wasn't a complete withdrawal of the workforce. That is why, following the incidents that have occurred at St Basil's and other places, we were able to get an agreement out of the Victorian government to ensure that that process of complete and immediate withdrawal was not repeated, as it was a key contributing factor to what occurred in that facility. That is an example of how the Aged Care Response Centre has been working each and every day to deal with problems and issues as they have arisen in what has been an extraordinary set of circumstances in Victorian aged care.
As the Minister for Health just reminded the House, in every country where there has been extensive community transmission of the virus, it has gone and had devastating effects in aged-care facilities. In Australia, 97 per cent of facilities in this country, and just over 90 per cent in Victoria, have had no cases of COVID. That, compared to the international experience, is a testament to the great work that is being done by those officials and those working on the ground to prevent the impacts of this virus when it moves through the community—so many aged-care workers and, indeed, health workers in Victoria more broadly, as I was being briefed on only this morning. When there is community transmission, it affects all workforces, and that includes the health workforces. That is impacting hospitals. There has been an outbreak in the Frankston Hospital, and we're dealing with the transfer of residents who had been transferred to that hospital. So we will continue to deal with the issues as they arise. We will work together with the Victorian government to achieve the best results for residents who are in their care.