We have had some very good leadership from our health experts and industry leaders regarding the COVID-19 crisis and Australia is holding its own for now.
This gives aged care providers a window of opportunity to ensure they have well-thought-out and resourced infection control plans in place that can be implemented if (or when, as seems more likely) COVID-19 becomes widespread in the community.
The issue is that a lot of discretion remains with aged care providers on how they manage their infection control protocols.
That’s a problem because even before the Aged Care Royal Commission we knew that many aged care providers can sometimes struggle with determining suitable levels of staffing, resourcing and training.
Aged care recipients and their families should insist that their aged care providers explain their COVID-19 management plans, and in particular, what measures are being put in place over and above the usual flu management plans – with 20 times the mortality rate and no vaccinations at hand, this is most definitely not a business-as-usual situation.
It is particularly important for our older Australians given the following:
- flu protection arrangements (the default position for those contracting flu in aged care) are unlikely to be adequate. This is as mentioned previously, due to the absence of a vaccination and the mortality rate of Covid-19, which is 20 times higher than the seasonal flu;
- the Aged Care Royal Commission has already identified that a lack of training and poor staff are a feature of aged care in Australia; and
- the average age of Covid-19 victims is over 71 yrs.
Now is a time for asking difficult questions and making sure older Australian and their families get the right answers from their aged care providers and, frankly, any other service provider that routinely deals with the elderly.
If the right answers are not forthcoming, or anyone is unsatisfied with the level of preparedness of their aged care provider, they should consider raising the matter with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.