House debates

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Aged Care

2:00 pm

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

My question is to the Prime Minister. More than 700 people have died of COVID in aged care this year alone, more than twice the number for the whole of last year. Tens of thousands of residents are not getting the care they deserve, because of staff shortages. Aged-care homes are closing, and aged-care workers and nurses are exhausted. Why won't the Prime Minister stop playing political games, do his job, and fix this crisis?

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

I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. One of the most significant things which this government has done during the course of the pandemic is to focus on protections in aged care. As I said yesterday, we recognise that each loss in this pandemic is a tragic loss for those that are affected. We are, however, in the position where, thankfully, due to the work of our nurses and our carers, and of all of those involved, we have one of the lowest rates of loss of life in residential aged care in the world—a rate which, when we look at the United Kingdom and the United States, is multiple times higher in those countries. And, unfortunately, many countries that have been affected during the pandemic were not able to count and chronicle all those whose lives were affected by COVID. We, by contrast, have been able to ensure that we have been able not just to take care of and treat but also to ensure that we have a comprehensive accounting of all of those that have, sadly, been lost. In particular, in terms of our actions, what we have done is lay down a series of things. Firstly, in relation to the PPE, this year, for example, we have provided over 50 million units of PPE within the aged-care sector. That includes now over 14 million rapid antigen tests. That includes approaching 20 million masks, a similar number of gowns and significant numbers of goggles—practical action. That then comes on top of that which is being done in relation to boosters. We have an 86.4 per cent—

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Hotham.

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

Actually, sorry; I apologise, we have 86.6 per cent rate of boosters amongst the eligible population, and a 92 per cent rate of take-up for first doses amongst those. And 100 per cent of facilities across Australia have had first-, second- and third-dose visits, with now well over 300 having had a fourth visit, as a minimum, so far.

What all of that does is then combines with the work which has been put in place to help protect and support the workforce. And, as part of that, we've been able to assist in their retention with, at this point in time, over $600 million provided through four retention bonus payments. These payments are about not just recognising and rewarding the workers—rightly—but ensuring that there are incentives to enter and incentives to remain in the system. All of these actions in the context of a global pandemic have come together to ensure that Australia was—

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister's time has expired. The member for Lindsay has the call.