One woman whose parents died in the last elderly care outbreak in Melbourne described failure to prevent recurrence as “incredible,” while the executive of a national chain of nursing homes described the federal government’s attempts to vaccinate staff as “dog breakfast.” “Has designated. and a “shit fight”.
The Melbourne outbreak has once again exposed the failure to fully protect the sector, with two elderly care facilities – Arcare Maidstone and Blue Cross Western Gardens – now working flat out to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among employees and residents.
The outbreak has hit unvaccinated elderly care workers despite federal promises they would be vaccinated by March. It has also infected employees who have worked in several elderly care homes, a practice that experts and unions have repeatedly warned about.
Liz Beardon’s parents both died in August after contracting Covid-19 at the Menarock Rosehill facility in the Melbourne suburb of Highett.
Beardon said she “couldn’t believe it” when she heard that elderly care cases had surfaced again.
She said that after what Victoria has been through, it should have been a matter of course to quickly vaccinate residents and elderly care staff and prevent staff from working in facilities for the duration of the pandemic.
“So many people were affected by the outbreak last year, not just residents and carers, but also their families who were unable to visit their loved ones for months,” she told the Guardian.
“And yet we’re back – I mean, it’s just amazing. For once, I want one of those politicians to stand up and honestly answer questions about what the hell they’ve been up to over the past few months. Why aren’t they more active? Why didn’t they do their job? Because now lives are in danger here. “
Vaccination of elderly care workers has been plagued by confusion and delays, despite the federal government placing it in the highest priority cohort and promising them to vaccinate it within six weeks of its introduction on Feb.22.
Only incomplete and sporadically published data are available on the number of elderly care workers currently vaccinated.
The industry, including Leading Age Services Australia, has reiterated serious concerns about an employee vaccination strategy that it describes as a frustrating and confusing “moving festival”.
A manager of a national geriatric nurse, who asked not to be named for fear of allegations, said the federal government’s approach was a “shit fight”.
“It’s a dog breakfast, it’s a bunfight, it’s a shitfight – all of those things,” he told the Guardian.
“The entire elderly care sector has asked why you don’t employ staff. It’s just … stupid. It’s just plain stupid.
“The elderly care residents are pretty static. You stay where you are. As you and I know, the virus is transmitted, it is transmitted. Employees are the ones who move in and out. “
The vaccination plans for staff have repeatedly been postponed. Originally, they were supposed to receive vaccination from teams within reach, separate from those sent to vaccinate residents.
The in-reach program is operated by private contractors, although the federal government has repeatedly refused to provide any basic information about the amount of their payment.
When these aged care teams within reach failed to materialize, workers began using leftover Pfizer vaccines that were not used on residents, which then left them pending as they tried to get a second dose on their hands to get.
The government promised to set up pop-up vaccination centers for geriatric carers, which have not come about in months and to date have only been set up in three of the 13 promised locations, all of which are in Sydney.
Now the government is urging nurses to get themselves vaccinated, either through their GP, a state or Commonwealth-run vaccination center, or through the pop-up hubs in Sydney. You can also wait for teams within reach.
Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney told the Guardian it was reasonable to ask how far back the vaccine introduction was for employees since they should be part of Phase 1a.
“It was a moving celebration with the staff,” he said. “We were told in advance that staff and residents have priority.
“You stood in front of the queue. But where we are today, the employees have to find their own way instead of sociable teams coming into the houses to vaccinate the employees. “
Rooney said the sector had asked the government for clear data on staff vaccinations only to learn that they were not ready to be released.
“To be honest, I can’t tell you how many workers are vaccinated because the government doesn’t keep a record of it. We asked them to do it and they say it’s still a work in progress, ”said Rooney.
“I can’t tell you how many employees have been vaccinated at the state or national level at this time.”
Health Secretary Greg Hunt said Monday that he had asked the panel of medical experts to consider whether vaccinations should be mandatory for elderly care workers.
Hunt also said the state government has the power to stop employees at multiple locations with public health orders, but noted that it was only a problem for a minority of workers in Victoria.
He also revealed that 85% of residents had ingested the vaccine and 99% had been offered it. Only six facilities across the country hadn’t received their first dose, he said.
Beardon shared her experience with the Royal Commission on Elderly Care and, after the death of her parents, called for a reform of the elderly care system to prevent similar situations from happening again.
“If what we went through in Victoria last year isn’t going to be the catalyst for change, then what?” She said.
“I feel with those who went through what my family went through last year. I tried to make changes. What else has to happen? How many more lives must be affected? How many human lives still have to be lost? “