Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Aged Care
My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Commonwealth aged-care regulator was informed of a COVID-19 outbreak at St Basil's home on 10 July but never told the Department of Health?
The Minister for Health may wish to add to this answer. A survey, I am advised, was conducted by that commission, which, as you know, is an independent agency. In the course of undertaking that survey, that also confirmed that they were aware of the processes they needed to follow to advise regarding any COVID cases in their facilities. Those requirements had been reinforced on several occasions to all operators about the appropriate process for notifying the Commonwealth of COVID cases in their facilities. The commission did not pass that on to the Commonwealth Department of Health. That is not the process for which COVID cases are advised to the Commonwealth. We were advised by the public health unit in Victoria, and then took immediate action.
I'm very happy to add to the Prime Minister's answer. As he said, on 10 July, as part of a survey of facilities right across Victoria, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission staff were advised that there had been a first case in St Basil's. They were also advised, as part of that, that the public health unit was responsible. The public health unit in Victoria, as per the agreement between the Commonwealth and the state, has principal responsibility for advising, and, in addition to that, the facility has responsibility for advising. The subsequent time at which that was advised to the Commonwealth was 14 July.
More generally, I think it is important to set out some of the actions taken by the Commonwealth in relation to this. Firstly, with regard to testing, as a consequence of that advice on 14 July, Sonic Healthcare conducted on-site testing on 15, 19, 23, 24 and 28 July, as did Aspen Medical workforce, as clinical first responder, on 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 30 July. A surge workforce was activated on 19 July to assist with the service. It was supplied from a number of sources, including Northern Health. Personal protective equipment was supplied from the National Medical Stockpile on 15, 16, 23, 24, 25 and 30 July.