Thursday, 8 October 2020
Day, Mr Reginald, COVID-19: Aged Care
Recently, I met with Reginald Day, a spritely 97-year-old constituent living in Malvern East Arcare, in my electorate of Higgins. Together with Reg's wife of almost 70 years, Pat, his five children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we joined by Zoom to celebrate his wartime contribution. Reg was drafted as a signalman at age 18 to the 20th Australian Pioneer Battalion, AIF. In February 1944, Reg's regiment was sent to Dutch New Guinea, where they defended the Merauke airfield, as well as many outposts upriver and in the jungle against Japanese infiltrators. In addition to the threat of the Japanese, there were warring local tribes of active headhunters. The conditions were very tough. Reg's family told me he hadn't spoken of these things until recently. Reg spent 18 months in Dutch New Guinea before being sent back to Brisbane in July 1945. He was just a few days out from returning there when Victory in the Pacific Day arrived, on 15 August 1945. He was one of the 9,000 troops who marched through Brisbane on 16 August 1945.
Reg and Pat lived independently until February this year, when Reg moved to Arcare Malvern East, an aged-care facility in my electorate. There were tears of sadness as they reached out across the airwaves—Reg in Arcare, Pat still in the family home. Reg has been isolating in his aged-care facility to stay safe during the second wave of the COVID pandemic that's been ripping through Melbourne. It's been tough for everyone in this sector: the aged-care providers, the carers and the carees. Although no country has been able to prevent aged-care communities from bearing the brunt of COVID deaths, Australia has done better than most. Despite the community outbreak in Victoria and compared to other countries, our fatality rate for those in aged care is one of the lowest in the world, at around 0.1 per cent. By comparison, Canada's aged-care sector reports a death rate that is 15 times higher. In Ireland and Italy, it's 30 times higher and in the UK an astounding 53 times higher. That said, COVID-19 has highlighted some unfortunate truths about our sector. Knowing that COVID has a predilection for the aged and infirm, the federal government acted swiftly and early to implement the world's best practices to keep our senior citizens safe. Locally, aged-care providers in Higgins were aware a community outbreak was on the way and activated the national plan. It's been heartbreaking for family members being separated from their loved ones. Australia's aged-care system is highly regarded by other countries. We should thank those working in the sector for keeping safe our senior citizens and our many war veterans, such as Reg, who have been amazing contributors to our community.