MEDIA is reporting on the COVID-19 infections in Victorian nursing homes as though it is all the result of inadequate preparation. However, it is now obvious that the regulator, the Australian Government, has neglected to adequately regulate residential aged care to the point where it was in such a bad state that any preparation for COVID-19 was largely futile.
Understaffed, under qualified and in many cases unable to isolate infected residents. These are not things that can be fixed in a couple of months.
We are now left with a debate as to whether or not infected residents should be transported to hospital immediately on testing positive or whether those residents should be isolated within the nursing home and only hospitalised once they need hospital care.
A long time before COVID-19 struck, residential aged care was already notorious for off-loading sick residents onto the hospital system. Homes with few if any registered nurses on duty at night and on weekends had effectively outsourced the aged care which they were supposed to provide to the local ambulance service and the closest hospital emergency ward.
But until COVID-19 struck, offloading residents onto the public health system was done in relatively small numbers. Now residential aged care wants to do it wholesale.
So the response of the Victorian health department that it “provides care to patients in their residential aged care home where they are comfortable and surrounded by staff who are familiar to them’ and that “in cases where a residents condition deteriorates they are transported to the hospital for more acute medical care” is not as unreasonable as it’s made out to be by some.
Neither residential aged care nor the hospital system can deal with large numbers of infected residents.
But who, if it’s not residential aged care, is supposed to be able to deal with large numbers of infected residents not requiring hospital-type acute care?
Who, if not residential aged care, is supposed to have the single-room-plus-ensuite accommodation for the isolation of infected residents?
Who, if not residential aged care, is supposed to have the qualified medical staff to look after infected residents that don’t need hospital care?
Why has the residential aged care sector never campaigned on the basis that it was not funded and not set up to do what was reasonably expected from them?
All they ever told the world was that they were wonderful.
The Australian Government has only itself to blame for being called out at the Aged Care Royal Commission. It is the Australian Government which has been completely negligent in not ensuring that all nursing homes were adequately staffed and able to practise adequate infection control. The consequences of this negligence are now borne by residents: suffering and death.