Three people assigned to Australian Covid Elderly Care Response Team during early stages of pandemic | Elderly care
The branch responsible for the federal government’s response to Covid-19 elderly care ended up with only three staff at times at the start of the pandemic, according to internal documents.
The Coalition faced persistent criticism for not preparing for Covid-19 in elderly care, including from the Royal Commission on Elderly Care, which felt its actions were ” insufficient to ensure readiness ”in the sector.
Staffing documents obtained by the Guardian through Freedom of Information show that the Covid-19 senior care implementation arm of the Department of Health – responsible for the Commonwealth’s response to personal care elderly – received minimum resources in early March 2020.
By this point, the virus was causing widespread deaths across Europe and the first wave was starting to take hold in Australia, including at Dorothy Henderson Lodge, a senior care facility in Sydney.
The Department of Health has provided the Guardian with a compilation of its ‘March 2020 staffing records’ for the Covid-19 elderly care implementation arm.
Records show that he only received three staff – a member of the management service, an executive-level employee and a junior official, considered to be an executive assistant.
The ministry insists that the branch was “increasing its resources” at the time.
The Guardian understands that the team received four additional employees in the last week of March – after the first wave worsened significantly and borders were closed – and more in mid-2020.
The ministry also said the branch was supported by other parts of government at the time, including its New South Wales State Office, the National Incident Room and the Quality and Safety Commission. care for the elderly.
In a statement, the department estimated that 90 staff from various fields were working on the Covid-19 elderly care response at the time, but were not officially transferred to the care delivery branch. to the elderly Covid-19.
He said the staffing document “does not reflect the full commitment and concentrated resources across the department” and called any suggestion to the contrary as misleading.
“It has been a portfolio effort and an interagency response,” the ministry said.
“In order to implement an effective response, these resources worked with their substantive managers, to reduce bottlenecks and ensure that the department uses employees with the most relevant skills to work on the response. This flexible approach allowed collaboration and support from the entire Department to prioritize and adequately fund this priority work.
But experts say personnel records again show the government’s lack of preparedness for Covid-19 in elderly care.
Professor Joseph Ibrahim, one of the leading specialists in geriatric medicine at Monash University, said the level of planning was “clearly enough” insufficient.
Ibrahim testified before the Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly last year that the government’s inaction resulted in the untimely deaths of hundreds of residents.
“To me, this only reaffirms the proof I gave the royal commission that they were under-prepared,” Ibrahim said. “I think this is proof that they didn’t have any real resources dedicated to this.”
The revelation comes as the government is under renewed pressure regarding its management of the risk of Covid in elderly care due to the current Melbourne epidemic.
Nine staff and residents at Arcare elderly care facility in Maidstone have tested positive for Covid.
The government has been criticized for delaying the vaccination of elderly health workers and failing to prevent employees from working in several facilities.
Around 685 deaths have occurred in elderly care facilities in Australia due to Covid-19, accounting for 75% of all Covid-19 deaths.
A report published in The Lancet in October said Australia had “one of the world’s highest rates of death in elderly care facilities as a percentage of total deaths”.
The first major epidemics in elderly care in Australia occurred in March at Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Sydney, and in April at Newmarch House. Both epidemics have claimed lives.
Victoria has since recorded 1,991 cases and 655 deaths in elderly care.
In an October special report, the Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly found there were “confused and inconsistent messages” to the industry about Covid-19.
“Too often health care providers, care recipients and their families, and health workers did not have the answer to the crucial question: who is in charge? the report found.
“In times of crisis, like this pandemic, clear leadership, direction and lines of communication are essential. “