Aged Care alarm: ‘Hundreds more will die from COVID’ 

12 August 2020

The Royal Commission into Aged Care has been told hundreds more elderly Australians will die from COVID-19 because they are being treated as “second class citizens” during the pandemic, according to a story published on Adelaide Now.

News Corp websites say the Aged Care Royal Commission was today told that health workers looking after the state’s vulnerable elderly have reported incredible breaches of infection control, rife under-staffing, and “abject neglect” of residents.

A member of the Royal Commission was reportedly “shocked and deeply disturbed” by evidence given today.

The probe also heard allegations that more than 1000 aged care workers in Victoria had tested positive to COVID-19.

In April, during the peak of the pandemic’s first wave, just 29 per cent of Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation workers reported that their PPE was adequate, evidence presented to the Royal Commission showed.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the union raised the urgent need for more staff and training with Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck on March 4 but did not get a meeting until April 4.

“We had members tell us they could only use one glove rather than two. We had members who told they had to reuse equipment, put it in collective plastic bags. A whole range of incredible breaches in infection control,” Ms Butler said.

“We requested a meeting with the Minister from 4 March. We didn’t get a meeting until 4 April despite insistence and despite raising our concerns.”

Ms Butler said registered nurses working in Victorian hospitals had been transferred from a “well-prepared sector” to aged care during the crisis, where they were shocked at the “abject neglect” and “horrific circumstances” they were seeing.

The ANMF (SA Branch) published an open letter in The Advertiser on Aged Care Employee Day (August 7), imploring the Federal Government to act now to ensure older Australians get the care they desperately need.

“At a time when health care workers are being lauded as heroes and aged care services struggle to cope with the devastating impacts of COVID-19, we have seen continuing cuts to staffing as well as reduction of shifts and adjustments to rosters. All resulting in fewer people with the required skills and experience to provide care,’’ wrote ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

“At any time, this would be gravely concerning but doing this now during the pandemic is simply beyond reckless and irresponsible.’’

Monash University head of Health Law and Ageing Professor Joseph Ibrahim said Australian aged care residents were treated as “second class citizens” throughout the pandemic, Adelaide Now reports.

“This is the worst disaster that is still unfolding before my eyes and is the worst I’ve seen in my entire career. I didn’t think we would sink any lower following the Royal Commission finding last year,” Prof Ibrahim said.

“We failed because we’ve treated residents as second-class citizens. There is an absence of accountability and there is no consequences for failing to deliver good care in aged care.

“In my opinion, hundreds of residents are and will die prematurely, because people have failed to act.”

Elderly Australians made up 68 per cent of deaths from COVID-19 so far.