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

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, Victoria's aged care crisis is on the brink of catastrophe as we've been talking about this morning. More than 80 facilities are now infected. Desperate families are frightened and our most vulnerable are now suffering alone.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Yeah, it's just awful. We're joined by Deputy Chief Health Officer Nick Coatsworth. Nick, thank you for your time this morning, doctor rather. The Herald Sun this morning says it has evidence of residents being – awful, awful – starved and left unwashed for days. This is just an absolutely calamity.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well Karl, what's going on down there is deeply concerning. 80 institutions are affected by COVID-19. This is clearly a risk when you have so many people within the Victorian community who have coronavirus disease, many of whom do work in residential aged care. It's a very large employer. So the challenge for us now is to get on top of things by supporting the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, which has now being fully operational for 3 days. We have had some encouraging signs from some of the most affected facilities, including St Basil's, where the strategy at the moment is to make sure that people are getting that care. If the care levels are overwhelming in a given facility, then it's important the make sure that residents are transferred to either public or private hospitals where they can get the care until the facility is ready to take them back again.

ALLISON LANGDON:

I mean, we might be throwing everything at it now, but you've got nearly 800 elderly infected. We need to brace ourselves for bad news in coming days, don't we?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Ally, we know that this disease is so tragically severe in the elderly. We know there will be more deaths as a result of it. Our challenge here is to get this under control at quickly as possible, to provide families with as much information as we possibly can, and to ensure that the residents of those aged care facilities are safe in their own homes.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Nick, I guess people at home and especially those who have loved ones inside these facilities have the right to know why these crack teams weren't sent in earlier; why the doctors that are going to be now in charge of their loved ones weren't there earlier.

NICK COATSWORTH:

They do have a right to know that, Karl. And what I might point out, which hasn't been widely reported, is that some of these facilities that are most affected by this have had literally the majority of their workforce, including their senior nurses and managers, asked to not attend work because of their contact with coronavirus disease. Now, we have been working with aged care facilities now for the entire pandemic. But no business in Australia has a business continuity plan that accounts for their entire workforce not being able to go to work. And I think, in a lot of ways, that has led some of the most affected institutions to where they are now.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Yeah. I mean, it's not pretty what's happening down there. And of course we're seeing what's happening in Sydney. But Nick, we're also learning this morning that a school in Queensland, in Logan, has been shut down. So is community transmission now an issue there?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Ally I must admit, I haven't seen those reports. Obviously if that's the case, it's because Queensland public health have deemed it absolutely necessary.

The challenge New South Wales is facing at the moment, but obviously rising to that challenge, is to make sure that those community outbreaks, where they occur and where there are unlinked cases to have a very aggressive response. So one unlinked case in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and we've seen pop up clinics in Rushcutters Bay. We've seen thousands of tests being done. We've seen the community turning out to get tested. And thus far in New South Wales, that's kept things under control.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

So you think New South Wales is on top of it?

NICK COATSWORTH:

I think New South Wales is keeping things under control, Karl. Obviously what we want to see is that we know where COVID-19 is, why it's there, and what we're going to do about it for every single case. And there's still one or two cases a day where we don't know where the community transmissions link are. So that's the number we want to see it, zero.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Doctor, thanks for your time this morning. We always appreciate it.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Thank you.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks Ally, thanks Karl.

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