AMA President says aged care sector is “vulnerable” on infection control – and more COVID-19 outbreaks remain a risk

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Dr Tony Bartone says the recent outbreaks in Australia’s aged care homes have highlighted the lack of resourcing in the sector – but it is still on providers to maintain their infection control procedures – during an interview on ABC Radio Melbourne.

“I think it’s highlighted that the sector is vulnerable,” he said. “COVID-19 has created an increased stress on an already weakened system, and we can expect, I would imagine, further occasions such as these that we’ve had to confront in the past few months occurring again and again as we continue to deal with this long-running battle with COVID-19.”

“If you’ve got staff members that are unwell, that can’t come into work, you need to replace them,” he told Morning host Virginia Trioli.

“In an already constrained environment, that puts additional stress on other measures that need to take place in terms of the clinical care – number one. Two, you need to have additional levels of cleaning and other practices that go on to ensure that the facilities remain at the highest standard of infection control possible. So, all this flows through the system.”

Dr Bartone added it only require “one slip up” in that process to lead to an outbreak.

Ms Trioli questioned however whether it was the under resourcing of the sector that had led to outbreaks – or if aged care providers could have done better.

“Are some much better than managing this than others?” she asked. “And, if that’s the case, does that then actually take us away from the issue of this simply being a sector-wide resourcing one?”

“Virginia, there is no doubt in my mind that some facilities are coping and adhering to the requirements better than others,” Dr Bartone stated.

“Now, without commenting on any specific facility, obviously, the investigations will show where that has been the case and where it hasn’t. But just because there hasn’t been a case reported doesn’t mean that that facility is beyond reproach and doesn’t need to draw attention to its own standards of infection control and the processes put in place there.”