The nation’s aged care minister has been hounded over Victoria’s latest Covid outbreak and a sluggish vaccine rollout in a heated interview on breakfast television.
Sunrise host David Koch fired up at Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck over the new virus cluster that has leaked into the state’s aged care system.
“You didn’t think it would come back? You didn’t think aged care facilities would be vulnerable again?” Koch asked the minister.
He probed Mr Colbeck about why the government didn’t continue forging ahead with rules that were quietly abandoned in November to stop aged care staff working at multiple facilities and why it stopped providing cash incentives for staff.
“Why would (you have not) kept it going (with the rule and incentives) until every aged care facility was fully vaccinated?” Koch said.
Mr Colbeck argued the health advice at the time, during last year’s outbreak, was to have those protocols in place while Victoria was declared a hotspot.
The aged care retention bonus was cut off in January this year after it was introduced during the height of the pandemic to keep workers in the sector.
“Well, there is always the risk when there’s community transmission … that’s the facts. That’s what the statistics showed us, and that’s why when there is a hotspot declared, it automatically triggers the one worker one site process,” Mr Colbeck said.
Koch pushed back when Mr Colbeck tried to argue that the vaccine rollout was a “huge logistical exercise”.
“So? Does that matter?” Koch fired back.
Mr Colbeck responded: “The providers we’ve had working for us have done a good job in scheduling this, it’s a very complex exercise to match up the vaccine deliveries with vaccine workers … all of those across the country are working with providers (and) going into each facility twice to set up a vaccine clinic.
“It’s a significant logistical exercise.”
While speaking to Sunrise, Mr Colbeck also said the government was concerned about what was playing out in Victoria and aged care had remained a priority on the nation’s vaccine schedule.
“(But) it is not mandatory, I thought it had to be mandatory,” Koch argued about workers being vaccinated.
Mr Colbeck said officials would review the health advice that originally wasn’t mandated in those settings because “we didn’t understand” whether vaccines would prevent transmission.
“We understand more about that now, we were always going to reconsider the advice as we learn more about the vaccine, how it works, but we know that it doesn’t prevent you from catching Covid-19, we know that for a fact,” he said.
“We know it doesn’t prevent transmission. It can minimise transmission.”
A huge health response is under way at four aged care facilities after they were linked to Victoria’s growing Covid-19 outbreak.
There are fears more cases will emerge in aged care after three of Monday’s five new local infections were linked to the sector.
Health Minister Martin Foley said one was the son of the first case in aged care – reported on Sunday – at the Arcare Maidstone facility.
Another case was a staff member at the same nursing home – the woman, who was not vaccinated, worked alongside the initial case.
Mr Foley said the third case was a resident at the Arcare Maidstone home. She was a woman in her 90s, asymptomatic and had been transferred to hospital.
Meanwhile, Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said a decision to allow workers to operate at multiple sites “beggars belief”.
“It speaks to the incompetence of the Morrison government,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
“One of the things that we learned most clearly last year was that workers moving between different aged care facilities was a source of cross-infection.
“There was a program put in place to prevent that within private aged care, the responsibility of Scott Morrison.”
– additional reporting by Finn McHugh
Originally published as ‘You didn’t think’: Kochie fires up