House debates

Monday, 24 August 2020

Statements by Members

COVID-19: Aged Care

4:37 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

It's been a scary fortnight in my electorate. More than 100 aged-care residents and workers have been infected in COVID-19 outbreaks. Tragically, seven people have died in my electorate and 335 people, loved ones, have died of COVID-19 in residential aged care across Australia. It's a terrible way to die and a horrible thing to endure for everyone involved. I've had to hear about it this week and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Residents of family first confront the fear of a rapidly moving outbreak and the fear of the virus' spreads and the grave risks that follow an infection. Those who get sick are then cut off from the comforts of family support—a hug from a loved one, a hand to hold—at their most challenging time. In my electorate, I've also seen multiple aged-care centres with the bulk of their workforces either ill or self-isolating, unable to staff centres at the level needed to deliver appropriate care to residents. Infuriatingly, this was entirely foreseeable. Indeed, it had already been seen in Australia and around the world. Despite this, counsel assisting the royal commission on aged care told the royal commission in its opening statement:

… the evidence will reveal that neither the Commonwealth Department of Health nor the aged-care regulator developed a COVID-19 plan specifically for the aged-care sector …

Today the royal commission has said, 'Had the Australian government acted upon previous reviews, the suffering of many people could have been avoided.' I ask the Prime Minister to think about that avoidable suffering and take personal responsibility.