‘Blame games aren’t helpful’: Seniors issue warning as aged care crisis grows

Federal and state leaders have been slammed for engaging in a blame game over the coronavirus crisis in the aged care sector as industry chiefs demand faster action to find more workers to deal with the emergency.
The federal government will send the first of five medical assistance teams into Victoria on Thursday as well as finding interstate nurses to fill gaps in the aged care workforce as hundreds of staff go into isolation. National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke said it was time for «political posturing» over aged care to be put aside because the pandemic had exposed longstanding problems in the sector.
«If this was happening in schools with children the response would be very different. We shouldn›t have the view that older people are dispensable,» he said. Former age discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan said the handling of the aged care sector reflected a «lack of respect for the human rights of older people» when residents were seen as «problems to be solved» rather than human beings with a right to choice and dignity.
Ms Ryan said the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission «should have been doing a lot more» to enforce infection control standards in the sector from the beginning of the pandemic.
«The moment there is a problem, the commission should be there – not weeks later after there have been deaths and older people carted off to hospital, leaving families distraught,» she said. With infections now reported at 77 aged care homes, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews promised to work together to bring the crisis under control.
But the federal government›s top health official, Brendan Murphy, confirmed he advised Victorian officials late last week to suspend elective surgery, days before the Premier announced the move to free up more nurses and healthcare workers.
Mr Morrison was frustrated that Mr Andrews had not taken the decision earlier and texted the Premier on Monday and Tuesday morning to press him to move. Dr Murphy, previously the chief medical officer and now the secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing, said on Wednesday he had told Victorian officials late last week they should suspend elective surgery, after first raising it two weeks ago.
«I have been in discussion with the Victorian authorities about elective surgery and I first discussed it with a senior official in the Victorian Health Department I think on the 15th of July, wondering what they were doing with elective surgery,» he said.
«I have had many informal discussions with people late last week [and] certainly on the weekend, on Sunday, I did say that this has become really crucial that this is stopped now and I did make a very formal request.»
Asked about this, Mr Andrews said there had been «constant discussions» over the issue and noted Victoria had suspended some elective surgery two weeks ago.

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