Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Aged Care
My question is to the Prime Minister. The government's report on the deadly COVID outbreak at Newmarch House said families reported weight loss, dehydration, pressure sores and increases in urinary tract and skin infections amongst fragile residents. Why hasn't the Prime Minister taken full responsibility for the consequences of his $1.7 billion cut to aged care?
I thank the member for his question. I have already addressed the misleading remarks that he has presented, again. It would seem that the opposition that is being presented here, the Labor Party that is being presented here, is just an outdated version of what was rejected by the people at the last election. They continue to go forward and put these false things forward, just as they did before the last election. And here they are again, doing exactly the same thing.
But to address the serious issue of the Newmarch House report, the Commonwealth government has already made significant changes on how providers are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, as a result of what was done with the report into Newmarch:
To ensure the earliest possible identification of all COVID-19 cases, the immediate and repeated testing of all residents and staff should be implemented as soon as a single case is identified …
Yesterday, I went through quite a number of cases in questions raised by those opposite about how that initial testing was done immediately after the Commonwealth was notified. The Older Persons Advocacy Network is now automatically engaged at every outbreak to provide access to advocacy services for providers, residents and their families, as I indicated in response to the cases that we saw yesterday when I was referring to matters that had occurred in Victoria. The department, and now the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre in Victoria, provide communication support to providers in the event of an outbreak, including funding for that work, which was also one of the lessons from the Newmarch report. The Commonwealth has expanded the number of surge workforce providers available for services directly impacted by COVID-19—for example the RCSA—and the department is engaging greater support for new staff, including with practical infection control, including support from AUSMAT members.
There were many lessons from the Newmarch report. Those lessons were actually discussed openly amongst premiers and chief ministers and myself, and it has worked its way into the response that has been provided both by the Commonwealth and the Victorian state government, presently, in dealing with the challenges that are there. That has enabled the number of facilities that have been identified as significantly impacted and are on that category 2 watch list, as it is known, to be reduced from 13 down to three. I can report again, based on the report I had this morning, that those three centres in Victoria remain in a stable condition, albeit they are under a close watch.