Professor Brendan Murphy – without controlling community transmission “no amount of preparation can stop outbreaks in aged care”

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The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety reached its third day of hearings into the sector’s response to COVID-19, with Department of Health Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy among those giving evidence.

Professor Murphy defended the Federal Government, saying it had been deeply focused on protecting vulnerable members of the community like the elderly.

He added the outbreaks in Victoria were a consequence of community transmission and applauded the Victorian State Government for imposing stricter lockdowns.

“The most important protection is to control community transmission, without that no amount of preparation, planning can stop outbreaks in aged care. Every country in the world has seen that,” Professor Murphy said.

Professor Murphy reiterated measures the Government had taken including the distribution of PPE and agreements with the private hospital sector to take residents.

“Obviously every death in aged care is a tragedy and no country in the world has avoided substantial outbreaks and unfortunately and tragically substantial deaths when they’ve had community transition of the scale that we’ve currently seen in Victoria,” he said.

“We reject categorically that the Australian Government failed to adequately plan and prepare.”

Pressures for workers and operators

The Commission also heard from Health Services Union branch secretary Diana Asmar who said nurses and carers were experiencing tremendous levels of stress.

“There is no staffing ratios in aged care in private sector. Which is a shame, because at the moment, prior to the COVID-19 they were understaffed. And now, today, with the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, we’re seeing more understaffing as we speak because there is a huge shortage of staff in aged care,” she said.

Professor Joseph Ibrahim also gave evidence, saying there was confusion between state and federal levels about who was in charge when it came to aged care.

“People simply shovel or shuffle their responsibility by claiming it’s under one jurisdiction rather than the other,” he said.

“It doesn’t take great insight to see having three or four different groups in authority wanting to run something is going to create confusion.

“You already have the aged care quality commissioner, the federal government, the state government and the public health units having a piece of the pie.”

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