Bullying, aggressive, no empathy with the sector: providers lambast Aged Care Minister’s appearance on national webinar

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Providers have criticised Senator Richard Colbeck’s appearance at a national webinar hosted by the sector on visitor restrictions late on Friday, saying he appeared to show little empathy or connection with operators.

“It was nothing short of bullying and aggressive behaviour,” one CEO said. “There was no attempt to bring the sector together.”

Providers tells us that the Zoom session – which experienced technical difficulties, causing the Minister and his offsider Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy to drop in and out – saw the pair counter each other’s comments repeatedly.

When it was put to Minister Colbeck that the PM had openly stated that residents were being ‘locked up’ in their rooms, the Minister denied this and said that the PM was only concerned about families not having access.

When LASA CEO Sean Rooney then read out the PM’s comment, the Minister reportedly deflected the comment, saying it had been taken out of context.

Providers on the call say the Minister and CMO were told that families and residents overwhelmingly support restricted access to aged care homes, but they were essentially berated for ‘locking people up’.

“I am not aware of a single provider,” the CEO said. “Apparently there are a couple but these are not across the sector.”

The Minister also reportedly labelled aged care the ‘next cruise ship incident’ and said that they should keep restrictions – sending a conflicting message to operators.

We understand that Professor Murphy also used the argument that there is no evidence that visitors are bringing COVID-19 into aged care homes.

“But this begs the question, isn’t that the case because that is because we have restricted visitors?” another CEO asked.

“It’s a circular argument. If we had no workers in aged care, we would have no worker to resident transmission either.”

Minister Colbeck also claimed the argument to allow families to visit was based on statistics – but only presented anecdotal evidence including a letter from a family member who said they had been kept from their dying mother without any proof of the story behind it.

“The sector is so angry,” one CEO concluded. “The CMO said ‘I can see people are a bit hurt’, but I don’t think people are hurt. It’s a complete misrepresentation of our sector.”