Date published: 
29 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

LISA MILLAR:

With the growth in COVID-19 cases in the eastern states and now that news we just heard about Queensland, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth is here for more. Nick, good morning and welcome. Thanks for joining us again.

We've got a few things to get through, including that news out of Queensland, I'll leave that just for the moment. First of all, though, the aged care in Melbourne, is there anything you can say to give comfort to families this morning? Because it does seem like every day the news just keeps getting worse.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, my father was in aged care, I can't imagine what some of the families down there are going through at the moment. This is the highest priority for both governments. We've got Emergency Management Australia, Emergency Management Victoria working together. There is some light there, Lisa, that some of the most affected facilities, when we do get staff in there and leadership to actually sort things out. Keeping in mind that the senior leaders and managers have often, for these facilities, been put into isolation themselves.

So, when we get some senior leadership to support those people on the ground, then we can actually get people cared for to the standard that those families and those residents deserve. So, that has happened at some of the most affected facilities already, and the Aged Care Response Centre is working through. It is a large task, it is an enormous task, but we're getting some results there.

LISA MILLAR:

The Chief Nurse Alison McMillan was giving a taste of just how big the challenge is this morning on RN Breakfast when she was also saying the care that she saw at St Basil's was not as good as she would want to have- wanted to have seen.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Yes, exactly. I mean, Alison is our Chief Nurse, she's one of the most experienced nurses in the country. And she took, in some ways, personal charge of that situation to make sure that some of those residents were sent to public and private hospitals, to make sure that the remaining staff there had the capacity to care for the staff that remained at St Basil's.

And keeping in mind, that when we talk about residential aged care facilities, these are the homes of these Australians, these Victorians, and that we should do our best to be able to care for them in their homes, in those facilities. But where that is not possible, then we do have other options to make sure that they are cared for to the standard that we, Alison and I, expect.

LISA MILLAR:

Are you comfortable, though, are we confident that, as of today, enough is being done to try and stop this getting any worse?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I can tell you that as of today, everything possible is being done. It is about getting the situation to a point where there are not new outbreaks occurring. Now, there- the numbers of cases in some facilities is substantial, and that is going to take some time to get on top of. But we have seen that there is an AUSMAT team going down there of clinical leaders to help with that leadership gap that we've got.

We do have some of the nurses for- the workers, for example, at St Basil's will come out of their isolation shortly and be able to get back in there. And of course, public and private hospitals are working together with the Department of Health and Human Services to make sure that there is capacity to care for these residents who are in- so desperately need care, because many of their usual aged care workers are now in isolation.

LISA MILLAR:

Nick, I know that there'll be family members watching this morning. I don't want to dwell on this too much, but the rates of death amongst positive cases from aged care, overseas, elsewhere, we've seen it, is one in five. Is that what we need to be expecting here in Australia because we've got 769 active cases in aged care?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Lisa, keeping in mind that a proportion of those 769 are younger residential aged care workers. But on that question, it is tragically a disease that affects our elderly so severely. Our mortality, our death rates have been somewhat less than the international average, but that is not going to be of too much comfort to someone who has an elderly affected relative.

So, the key here is for us to get these outbreaks under control as quick as possible, and that means across Victoria, that means within the residential aged care sector, but it also means control in the community as well. So once those two things happen, we'll see the curve start to bend, to flatten again, and that's when we'll be able to get control. Before then, it's important that we stop further outbreaks within residential aged care facilities, and that's the role of the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.

LISA MILLAR:

Okay. Let's zip up north to the Queensland border. We heard about this case at the school there today, Annastacia Palaszczuk telling people, don't cross the border, suggestions the border might be closed again. What's your take on all those?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, my take is that Queensland Public Health Unit are doing precisely what needs to be done. My understanding is that this was an employee of the school. The fact that it's been closed, that a deep clean is being undergone, that there will be extensive testing and contact tracing, is straight out of the playbook, of course, that New South Wales is using, that we endorse nationally, to get these- any chains of transmission under control.

Of course, one case is not a chain, and hopefully we'll be able to get that under control as soon as possible. And we can see exactly the results of that in New South Wales, where small numbers of cases every day, but they seem to be keeping it under control with only one or two unlinked chains of transmission.

LISA MILLAR:

So, the borders are, again, another question, we might see it, and more conversation about closing them off?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, I think what we've seen is that we need to restrict movement across the country when there's large amounts of COVID-19 in certain parts of it. So, the premiers and their chief health officers are looking at this closely, quite clearly. South Australia's enhanced their border measures, and I'm sure Premier Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young are looking at this in detail at the moment.

LISA MILLAR:

Alright. Nick Coatsworth, thanks for your time this morning.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thank you, Lisa.

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