The minister responsible for Australia’s aged care homes has disputed claims the sector wasn’t given enough health advice to deal with coronavirus outbreaks.
The Aged Care Royal Commission on Monday heard neither the federal Health Department nor aged care regulator developed a sector-specific plan.
The commission heard aged care was offered no virus advice from either body from June 19 to August 3, a crucial period in the pandemic when cases in Victoria spiked.
But Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the sector had received advice much earlier.
“There has been continued advice, support to the sector since late January to deal with COVID-19,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
Senator Colbeck said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had also given advice on July 14.
Australia’s virus aged care death rate is among the highest in the world at 68 per cent.
The majority of the more than 200 deaths in aged care have been in Victoria.
Fourteen of the 19 deaths recorded on Monday were linked to aged care outbreaks.
The aged care regulator failed to tell federal agencies a staff member at one of the infected nursing homes, St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner, had tested positive to the virus until four days later.
“I’m not happy that there was a gap in the systems,” Senator Colbeck said.
“They should have told us immediately.”
Labor’s government services spokesman Bill Shorten says the situation in aged care is heartbreaking.
“It’s almost like because they’re old and out of sight we can forget about them,” he told Nine’s Today show.
“Unlike some of the problems of COVID-19 this nation has known that aged care has been very poorly run for a very long time. We have been on notice.
“We have known aged care has been under loved for too long. COVID-19 has just ripped the lid off it.”