House debates

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Vaccination

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. In light of events this week in an aged-care facility, what additional steps has the minister taken to ensure that, before people are given the COVID vaccine, all clinical staff complete mandated training to ensure that errors like this don't happen again?

2:08 pm

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

I'm very happy to respond. We are referring, of course, to the issues in relation to the Holy Spirit home in Carseldine, where a doctor failed to complete the training and where the doctor subsequently administered a higher than prescribed dose. A number of steps have occurred. Firstly, the secretary of the department has met with and spoken with the CEO, initially, and also with the chair of the company. I'm advised that the CEO is being stood aside as a consequence of the discussions and in particular that the company is installing new management. They are bringing in additional management. It is a company that has been employed through the course of the pandemic by the Western Australian government and the Victorian government, and in the Northern Territory and New South Wales. It has a long history of employment on that front.

In addition, at the government's request, former Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer of Australia Deb Thoms has been installed to oversee clinical guidance. In addition, there has been a review of the mandated and required training—which was part of the contract, which the company was in breach of—and it has been confirmed that every person involved with a clinical role with the vaccine has completed the training. That has already been done, it has already been reviewed, and it has already been confirmed by the department. In addition to that, what we are doing is bringing in additional clinical support in New South Wales and Queensland. That has been a direct response under the guidance of Professor Brendan Murphy, who has met with the company. There was a clear breach. It was a breach of the required standards by the individual, and it was a breach by the company, which not only failed to meet its contractual obligation but also, very significantly, provided false advice. As we can see, there are serious consequences, but, above all else, safety procedures have been put in place.

I can inform the House that prior to question time, at approximately 1 pm, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and I spoke with the chief medical officer for the Metro North district in Brisbane, Dr Liz Rushbrook, who is overseeing the clinical care of the two patients in question—the 88-year-old male and the 94-year-old female. Her advice to us is that both have been unaffected and both are in very strong health. There have been no adverse impacts. Indeed, the woman will be returned, at the request of her family, to her facility this afternoon. The male will stay in hospital for a prepared, already predicted elective surgery procedure. So both are in good health.

2:11 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the Deputy Prime Minister please inform the House how the Morrison-McCormack government is rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine in regional areas and about the logistical effort involved in the distribution across Australia?

2:12 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Cowper for his question. From the earth to the moon. Members opposite are probably wondering what announcement I'm about to make. The Prime Minister probably is too, for that matter, but stay tuned. Listen up!

The COVID-19 vaccine program began on Monday. We all know that. The rollout of the vaccine is one of the largest logistical exercises undertaken in this nation's history. There are 134 vaccination sites around Australia, and nearly 44 per cent of those are in regional Australia. In conjunction with the states and territories and their health services, we expect there to be more than 1,000 vaccine sites across the country. The initial doses of the vaccine will be available to aged-care and disability-care residents and workers, frontline healthcare workers, and quarantine and border workers. The people eligible for the first round of vaccines who live in regional Australia will not be disadvantaged by their postcode, nor should they be. Everyone who gets the vaccine will be able to get it close to where they live. In the member for Cowper's electorate, the Garden Village nursing home residents and workers in Port Macquarie will begin receiving their vaccine in week 1. The CEO of Garden Village, Craig Wearne, said: 'Residents who call Garden Village home are looking forward to the Pfizer vaccine being rolled out at the facility from Saturday.' And 100-year-old resident Grace Symonds, describing her decision to have the vaccine, said, 'It's a way of helping to fight back.' Good on you, Grace!

The government is also working with both DHL and Linfox to ensure cold chain storage and supply to all Australians, including in rural and remote locations. I have mentioned Saul Resnick before. He is the CEO of DHL Supply Chain. He said that they have completed—I know you are all waiting for this with bated breath, so listen up—341 delivery consignments of vaccines so far and that the vaccines have travelled 397,782 km around Australia to get to their destinations. That is further than from the moon to the earth. Three cheers for that!

By road and by air they have delivered 49,655 doses of vaccine intact and within specification. I say, 'Well done,' to DHL, to those frontline medical personnel and to our truckies, who have done a magnificent job right throughout COVID to make deliveries. Whether it's now the vaccine, supplies to supermarkets, face masks or respiratory devices, they've done it. I say, on behalf of the parliament, 'Thank you and well done, Truckies.'

2:15 pm

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. COVID vaccinations at the Benetas nursing home at Kangaroo Flat were meant to begin yesterday. A constituent told me that he was there with his grandmother, who gets really anxious about needles, and 49 residents and their families were waiting. The facility had put on extra staff, but the Commonwealth's private contractor never showed up. How did this happen? Can the minister assure the House that this mismanagement is not widespread?

2:16 pm

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

I am very happy to receive any details in relation to that specific case. I can inform the House that, as of last evening, 71 aged-care facilities across Australia had received vaccination. I should add that Holy Spirit in Carseldine is continuing the program and are expecting a 96 per cent take-up rate amongst their residents. This is the facility that we referred to before. In Victoria, 17 facilities and 1,181 aged-care residents have been provided with vaccination. These are confirmed in advance with the facilities. If you could provide the details to me, I'd be happy to follow that up. We will make inquiries about that particular facility.

Very interestingly, we have seen the number of facilities continue to increase. The first day was a trial day and there were approximately six. Then we went to over 20. Now we have collectively gone to over 71. Today we're expecting well over 20 facilities, with 1,600 individuals being vaccinated. That's occurring around the country. That's what's actually occurring. The order of facilities will differ—sometimes on the basis of advice of the facility and sometimes on the basis of readjusting one facility due to another—but let us be absolutely clear that we are seeing this being rolled out at facilities around the country. As of last evening, the advice from the department was that there were 71 facilities across the country in the first three days. That's better than I had originally expected over the course of that time, knowing that we were starting and building up and up and up.

In addition to that, there are the other measures we mentioned with regard to additional workforce being put on in New South Wales and Queensland. Indeed, under the Commonwealth contracts, Victoria has had the highest number of facilities and the highest number of aged-care residents of any state and territory vaccinated so far.