Doorstop at Mt Martha, Victoria
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's doostop at Mt Martha, Victoria regarding compulsory flu vaccination for aged care workers.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
This year we’ve seen tragic outcomes in relation to the flu. 4.5 million Australians have been given a free flu vaccine.
Every Australian over the age of 65 is entitled to the flu vaccine free of charge. However, after consultation with the Chief Medical Officer, and with the Council of the Aging, the Commonwealth will move, in conjunction with the states, and the medical authorities and the Council of the Aging, to ensure that all aged care workers are given flu vaccines before next year’s flu season.
This has never happened in Australia before. It has never happened during the period whilst the flu vaccine has been available. But it’s our determination that it’s an important step forward.
New South Wales has called for and endorsed the view that we should have as broad a coverage as possible amongst the aged care workers.
The Council of the Aging has called for, and endorsed the view and welcomed the decision to ensure that all aged care workers are covered by the flu vaccine. We know that the elderly population is especially vulnerable to the flu.
And we know that we need to do all that we can to care for our carers, and to ensure that our carers are fully protected. This is an important step forward. It’s about giving the best coverage and the best protection for our elderly citizens in nursing homes and aged care facilities.
And it’s about ensuring that we are doing everything we can to deal with the circumstances.
I’d also note that the Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt, has instigated a review through the aged care authorities of the circumstances surrounding the deaths in Victoria and Tasmania.
With just the most heartfelt sympathy to all of those involved. There was a 20 day delay between the Victorian Health Department being notified and the Commonwealth Health Department being notified. We would obviously seek advice from Victoria as to how and why that occurred.
Happy to take any questions.
So why haven’t the flu vaccinations been as effective this year?
Well I think that’s a medical question for the Chief Medical Officer. We know that a record number of flu vaccinations have been given.
But this is a national challenge and it always had been a national challenge, and it remains a national challenge, simply because flu continues to evolve in different strains.
But I’ll let the Chief Medical Officer provide commentary on the particular outcomes and the particular developments in relation to this disease.
Yesterday the AMA came out and said that mandatory flu vaccinations are typically unworkable. What would be your response to that?
Well we’ll work with the sector, and we’ve already had strong support from the Council of the Aging, which of course represents the aged care sector and the interests of the aged. And in this particular case, they are the natural partner body. But we’ll work with all of the authorities in a constructive way.
In terms of the outbreaks at Victorian and Tasmanian nursing homes, have you been told what the rate of immunisation for flu was for both the staff and residents at those facilities?
That is one of the questions which the Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt, will be seeking answers on.
So have you been told how long it took for those particular nursing homes to recognise they actually were dealing with the flu?
So what we are aware of is that it took 20 days for notification of the Commonwealth from Victoria, once Victoria was given advice that there had been three lives lost.
So it’s clear that that notification is not what it should have been. We will await the review, but we want to see when the authorities were alerted in Victoria.
We want to make sure that we know what the nursing home knew, and whether all procedures were followed.
Are you aware if the anti-viral, Tamiflu was offered in any of those cases at those two?
Again, these are rightly the questions for the review to address, and on which to provide answers as soon and as quickly as possible.
Are you surprised that, given what you’re pushing today for, that it hasn’t been compulsory for aged care workers to go and have these vaccinations in the past?
Look, I can’t speak for the past. I can only speak for our watch, and in the first few months in the role, this is a decision that we’ve taken.
It’s an important step forward. And it’s something which is achievable, which is desirable, and which is our time and our responsibility.
Just on another matter, Barnaby Joyce. So Labor’s threatening chaos if Barnaby Joyce is acting PM this week. Do you have anything to say about that?
Look, I think that Labor doesn’t respect the Parliament. Labor has serious questions to answer about many of their own.
And I think that it might just be time for Mr Shorten to behave with the dignity and respect towards the Parliament, which a leader of a major party should show.
So why is it fair for him to act as PM, when his citizenship is in doubt?
Well that’s a matter for the High Court, and I’ll leave that to the High Court. But he is the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, clearly, simply, absolutely.
And does the Government have any questions about his legitimacy while the citizenship status of such ministers remain unresolved?
No. Okay, thank you very much.