Government ramps up aged care response as Covid-19 cases continue to rise

Jul 27, 2020
The response centre will ramp up the focus on protected older Australians. Source: Getty.

In an effort to stem the growing spread of coronavirus in aged care facilities, the Federal Government has established a Victorian Aged Care Response Centre that will help to manage the impact of the virus on one of the most vulnerable groups of Australians.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out on Monday saying the outbreak in Melbourne’s aged care sector, which now sits at 683 cases across 71 residential and non-residential facilities, should serve as a reminder that when community transmission increases, there’s an added importance to protect those who are most vulnerable.

“It is important to understand that the challenges – and they are significant in the aged care sector – are a reminder that when community transmission occurs with Covid-19, the aged care sector will all be impacted,” he said. “That is certainly the experience we have seen in other countries. When you have problems in aged care, it is a function of the community transmission.”

The centre will be a joint initiative by the state and federal governments and will be located at the State Control Centre in Melbourne. The response team will be run by Emergency Management Victoria in collaboration with Emergency Management Australia and VicHealth.

The new agreement will stop staff going to multiple facilities and comes into effect on Monday. Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said that at this point residential facilities with positive cases will be handled case by case however, Morrison said later that day that those who test positive will be moved into hospital.

“One of the key things being done in the aged care sector currently is transferring people who have contracted Covid into hospital facilities and we are making use of the private hospital as agreement that we put in place some months ago to free up beds in the private hospital area so we can transfer people out of those facilities into those beds, and we are working closely with the Victorian state government about that process,” Morrison said.

Andrews said that the aged care residents would be moved into hospitals “when it is deemed clinically appropriate for their safety”. He also said the task of managing aged care would be a shared responsibility between the state and federal governments as well as private, not-for-profit and religious sectors.

“That won’t mean every single patient gets take into a public hospital,” he said. “There’s capacity for us, it’s not a function whether there’s capacity or not, it’s a function of the individual decisions that treating doctors make both about the infection, prevention and control risks in a given aged care setting, and also the clinical circumstances of that patient.”

Meanwhile, Colbeck said that he believed nursing homes were doing “exceptionally well” but assured that the Federal Government-led centre would offer a clear and direct oversight to managing outbreaks.

“We stand ready to offer the support needed to protect senior Australians, their families and care providers in what is the greatest challenge the sector has faced,” he said. “We are listening and understand the complex issues that lay ahead. Together we can ensure provisions are in place to reinforce the sector at every level and ultimately protect the lives of those people we care for most.”

Morrison also announced he would be re-establishing the Covid-19 Coordination Commission under the leadership of Nev Power to set up for post-Covid recovery. The commission will be focussed on creating more jobs in the future and getting as many people back into work as possible.

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