Scott Morrison said the recent horrific scenes in Vaged care homes “had not been anticipated or foreshadowed” but the government was warned months before.
Scott Morrison said the recent horrific scenes in Vaged care homes “had not been anticipated or foreshadowed” but the government was warned months before.

Federal government warned of aged care staff shortage

The federal government was warned the biggest issue during a deadly coronavirus outbreak at a Sydney nursing home was the sudden loss of most staff.

But even after receiving a detailed review of the Dorothy Henderson Lodge disaster, federal authorities were unable to prevent workforce shortages from sparking horrific scenes at the St Basil's and Epping Gardens aged care facilities in Melbourne.

The Dorothy Henderson report was handed to the aged care royal commission this week. Picture: Toby Zerna
The Dorothy Henderson report was handed to the aged care royal commission this week. Picture: Toby Zerna

The Dorothy Henderson report was handed to the aged care royal commission this week, as federal Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy gave evidence about guidelines on expected staff shortfalls during outbreaks.

Professor Murphy said the estimate suggested to operators of a 20-30 per cent shortfall was "unrealistic", but argued providers knew federal authorities would help them with extra workers if required.

An emergency workforce was rushed in to St Basil’s after all staff were deemed close contacts of COVID-19 patients. Picture: Getty Images
An emergency workforce was rushed in to St Basil’s after all staff were deemed close contacts of COVID-19 patients. Picture: Getty Images

 

An emergency workforce was rushed in to St Basil's after all staff were deemed close contacts of COVID-19 patients and stood down, although some residents did not receive adequate care during the changeover.

Scott Morrison had described the St Basil's situation as "something that had not been anticipated or foreshadowed".

 

More than 400 residents have been transferred to hospitals since the second coronavirus wave began. Picture: Aaron Francis
More than 400 residents have been transferred to hospitals since the second coronavirus wave began. Picture: Aaron Francis

 

But Opposition ageing spokeswoman Julie Collins said the Prime Minister "should have known better" after the government received the Dorothy Henderson review.

There are now 1929 active cases linked to aged care facilities, with 122 homes currently battling outbreaks, 117 of which are privately-run.

More than 400 residents have been transferred to hospitals since the second wave began.

Monash University aged care expert Joseph Ibrahim attacked the government's efforts to prepare the sector, saying hundreds of residents "will die prematurely because people have failed to act" and "all of this was foreseeable".

Prof Murphy also defended the decision not to make masks compulsory in Victorian aged care homes until July 13, but he conceded the change could have been implemented earlier. Picture: Gary Ramage
Prof Murphy also defended the decision not to make masks compulsory in Victorian aged care homes until July 13, but he conceded the change could have been implemented earlier. Picture: Gary Ramage

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth later told reporters "the assertion there was an attitude of futility towards death in residential aged care in Australia is frankly insulting to the entire Australian community who locked down to prevent deaths amongst our most vulnerable".

The commission also heard from Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler, who said nurses were shocked at the "abject neglect" they had seen in Victorian facilities since being called upon to help.

tom.minear@news.com.au

Originally published as Federal government warned of aged care staff shortage



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