Aged Care Hotspots Stable but Fragile: Australian PM

By AAP
August 19, 2020 Updated: August 19, 2020

The prime minister is confident most aged care homes devastated by coronavirus outbreaks are becoming increasingly stable.

But Scott Morrison concedes a handful of Melbourne centres on an “acute watch list” remain in a fragile position.

Victoria recorded 12 more deaths on Aug. 19—all of them linked to aged care—taking the national toll to 450.

Morrison said staffing issues and the disposal of personal protective equipment were a daily struggle.

“It’s a challenging environment and there’s a mixture of issues in each and every facility and they have to be treated on a case-by-case basis,” he told reporters on Aug. 19.

More than 750 aged care residents have been transferred to private hospitals.

But the prime minister said this was not an enduring solution.

“The answer is not just to line up a team of ambulances outside of an aged care facility,” he said.

Doctors are calling for an urgent risk assessment of all nursing homes to prevent outbreaks seen in Victorian happening across the country.

The Australian Medical Association said aged care was in crisis long before the pandemic began and failures of governance and care had only been amplified by COVID-19.

“Hundreds of elderly Australians have died needlessly and without family by their side,” AMA president Omar Khorshid said.

“Had our calls and recommendations over the past decade been heeded and implemented, we would not be facing the crisis to the extent we are currently seeing in aged care in Victoria.”

Victoria recorded 216 new coronavirus cases on Aug. 19, its lowest daily increase in five weeks.

NSW had seven new cases including two returned travellers.

WA recorded four cases—a family in hotel quarantine who had returned from overseas.

The prime minister has been challenged to take the blame for a litany of failures in Victorian nursing homes, which are regulated by the federal government.

But Morrison insists the responsibility is shared with the state government.

“We regulate aged care but when there is a public health pandemic … then they are things that are matters for Victoria,” he said.

The aged care royal commission has castigated the federal government for failing to have a plan to protect the elderly.

Meanwhile, Australia is a step closer to securing a potential coronavirus vaccine after the government struck an early agreement with developers in the UK.

If the trial proves successful, the prime minister would like to make the vaccine free but has ruled out making it mandatory for all Australians.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth says officials will work to reassure Australians the vaccine is safe and effective.

Coatsworth expects most Australians to get the vaccination, but says programs to incentivise the jab will be considered.

The number of confirmed cases around the world has pushed past 22 million.

By Daniel McCulloch in Canberra