House debates

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Aged Care

2:03 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is addressed to the Prime Minister: In March the Prime Minister said the government had been working on personal protective equipment for months. Last month, the aged-care royal commission said the shortage of PPE in aged care was 'deplorable'. Can the Prime Minister confirm that between March and August this year his government received 2,865 PPE requests from aged-care providers but rejected over half of them, leaving residents and frontline workers more vulnerable as a result?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The Minister for Health can update the House on those matters.

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very happy to answer this on behalf of the government. The advice that I have is that the government, during the course of this year, has acquired over 500 million masks in what has been a global shortage. At a time of extreme global shortage and a spike in demand, we've been able to maintain that airbridge for the nation as well as engage in domestic production. That has seen 78 million masks dispatched from the National Medical Stockpile, according to the rules of the National Medical Stockpile.

With regard specifically to aged care, the National Medical Stockpile has provided aged-care facilities with approximately 18 million masks, five million gowns, 11 million gloves, four million goggles and face shields, 90,000 bottles of hand sanitiser and 160,000 clinical waste bags. The time frame that I have is that between 18 February 2020 and 20 October 2020 the Department of Health received requests and responded to 1,769 request for PPE with dispatches and, very significantly, all requests from providers managing a COVID outbreak were approved. In addition to that, all requests for assistance outside of outbreaks where providers could not source PPE to meet clinical need—that is, to manage some form of outbreak or similar item—were met. So 100 per cent of the complying requests were met according to the terms of the National Medical Stockpile and there are no cases we are aware of where any complying request was met. We did this on the basis of the medical advice and we did this on the basis of the advice of the AHPPC, the medical expert panel which has guided Australia through this.

The provision of personal protective equipment has been one of the most significant and important achievements of this government. We have seen the outbreaks. We have seen the collapse across Italy, Spain and France. We have seen the shortages in New York and the United Kingdom in relation to PPE. Against that background, these provisions have been consistent. They have been done on the basis of rules set by the medical experts and we have met all of those requests, which met those requirements.