Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Senator Colbeck. In August the minister promised that he was requiring residential aged-care facilities to 'have a designated infection control officer on site'. In the government's response to the royal commission special report on COVID-19, it's revealed that the practitioners the minister promised in August will only be in place today. Why has it taken three months for the minister to deliver this protection for older Australians in aged care and support aged-care workers?
Senator Pratt is correct. On 31 August we announced that we would require all aged-care providers in this country to have a nominated IPC lead within each facility. Just because we say it doesn't mean it magically happens; we had to give the sector time for it to occur. I wrote to every aged-care provider in this country and told them that they were required to nominate their infection control lead by 1 December, and that's what I expect they will have done. We in fact moved ahead of the royal commission on this particular issue by announcing at the end of August we would require every aged-care facility in this country to nominate an infection control lead. We gave them a reasonable period of time to get that position in place and we have given them a further period of time to ensure that the nominated staff member has the appropriate level of qualifications—and we've actually nominated the qualifications they will be required to have by a certain date. We have done exactly what we said we would do in August. We said to the sector we would be requiring them to nominate the lead. We have made it a condition of their accreditation, so they are required to do it. We have done exactly everything we said we would do and we gave the sector an appropriate period of time to get that position in place.
As I've just advised the chamber, I have made that a condition of accreditation. Each residential aged-care facility is checked for its accreditation. We are conducting checks on infection control in aged-care facilities all over the country. We have been doing that for a period of time and we will continue to do that. This is not just a set-and-forget process; it is a continuous improvement process that we have asked providers to put in place. This will be, and is, a requirement of their accreditation. So that fact will be checked as a part of that process.
Given the minister's management of the Morrison government's broken aged-care system, which continues to be characterised by dawdle and delay, isn't it clear that this minister has learnt nothing from the tragedy he's overseen, the almost 700 deaths in aged care from COVID-19, and the censure of the Senate?
Unfortunately, the senator suffers from not having listened to the previous answers in asking the second supplementary, because I have directly addressed every single issue that Senator Pratt has raised. We have done exactly what we said we would do in the time that we said, and we have, in fact, made the appointment of the infection control professionals a factor of accreditation of aged care to ensure that we continue to improve the system and keep out senior Australians safe.