Minister for Elderly Care Richard Colbeck said the government accepted the report’s 38 recommendations for staff improvements, planning, clinical care, infection control, management and control, emergency preparedness, communication and building design, along with social isolation prevention.
But Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Paul Sadler said providers would need extra funding to “fully implement the recommendations”, which included a call for nursing homes to have adequate staffing plans during a pandemic.
“Most of the changes require providers to adjust and increase resource-intensive processes,” he said.
The latest data from the Federal Department of Health shows that 54 elderly nursing residents died with COVID-19 this year, in addition to 655 who died last year.
The report did not examine the role of the Federal Ministry of Health, which funds the elderly care sector, in issuing guidance to the sector early in the pandemic.
“It’s a laundering of their responsibilities,” said Professor Joseph Ibrahim, head of the Department of Health Law and Aging at Monash University.
“It does not at all reflect the responsibility of the federal government for coordination or risk management,” he said.
Asked to explain the timing of the report’s release, Senator Colbeck said the information “has been investigated in the past” and that the government had used it to “make a positive contribution to the management of geriatric care centers during the pandemic.”
A Victorian investigation into the deaths at St. Basil’s is set to begin on November 15th. NSW Coroners Court has not yet set a date for its inquest into death at Sydney’s Newmarch House.
Professor Ibrahim said the problems of infection control, staff and ventilation in geriatric care were well known before the pandemic began and that the crisis was exacerbated by poor clinical management in facilities with “accountants and lawyers running the place”.
Klery Loutas, whose 77-year-old mother, Filia Xynidakis, was dehydrated and malnourished – but not COVID-19 positive – when she died at St Basil’s last year, said there should “absolutely” be a national study to bring about change in the sector.
“It has to be expressed from the family perspective. It is us who suffer, go through heartache and are left with the questions of ‘why?’, ”She said. “We are stuck in that time and can not move on. That’s so unfair. “
Ms Loutas, who believes her mother died of neglect, said it seemed “very calculated” that the government released the report “on a day when people are taking a break.”
Ms Golding dismissed the report’s characterization that COVID-19 entering a geriatric care facility was largely a matter of “accidents”, saying operators were “unprepared” and pointed to the lack of an “easy-to-deploy bar” workforce “to fill when staff were forced into isolation.
“At St Basil’s, some of them did not speak English or had never worked in geriatric care before,” Ms Golding said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt, the pandemic had been “an extremely challenging time for all of us, but especially senior and vulnerable Australians and those who care for them”, and said the report would help providers “better prepare for and respond to future COVID -19 outbreaks. “
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