Federal government not told of deadly Victorian aged care outbreak for days
The Federal Government was not told of a deadly Victorian COVID-19 outbreak at St Basil's Home for the Aged for five days after it was first noticed.
St Basil's in Fawkner represents the most COVID-19 cases in Victoria's facilities, with 159 infections and five deaths now being investigated by a coroner.
READ MORE: Coroner to investigate deaths at St Basils Home for the Aged
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said that while Victoria Health authorities were told on July 9, the Commonwealth was not alerted until the 14th.
At the time, protocol was for any residential aged care facility management team to notify state authorities as well as the Federal Government within the first 24 hours of a virus outbreak being reported, Senator Colbeck said.
"The disappointing thing from my perspective was that the information that was gleamed from the question that asked about a positive outbreak wasn't passed on to anyone else," Senator Colbeck said.
"There was an assumption made that because the facility understood the first 24-hour document that that information had already been passed on - it wasn't.
"There should not have been a hole in our systems, that's been rectified appropriately - as it should've been."
'We didn't get it all right'
Senator Colbeck's comments come as Victoria remains in the grips of a second wave of COVID-19, with deadly outbreaks in the state's residential aged care facilities.
To date, 220 elderly Australians have died from coronavirus in the nation's residential aged care homes.
Despite that, the minister denied claims his department had failed residential aged care facilities during the pandemic.
"There have been some circumstances where things haven't gone as we would be liked. The circumstances at St Basil's is one where we didn't get it all right and we've been prepared to acknowledge that," he said.
Australia's COVID-19 aged care death rate one of the highest in the world
"They're very, very difficult circumstances, times of enormous stress for families and our efforts in every circumstances that I've seen since the pandemic started is that everybody's efforts has been to put the interests of residents in residential aged care first in our community to ensure that they continue to receive the treatment that they need and of course the care that they deserve.
"Unfortunately the circumstance with COVID-19 is that whenever you see a circumstance of community spread, particularly at the rate that we have in Victoria right now, you are going to have incidents of COVID-19 in residential aged care.
"It's an insidious virus that is infectious before symptoms show and that's why we've been so proactive in working with the sector."
'Our plan served the nation extremely well'
Despite the outbreaks, Senator Colbeck also defended the nation's overall response.
He said government's plan to deal with outbreaks in residential aged care facilities was released in February and developed in line with advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
That plan has since been updated twice and took into account lessons authorities learned from other outbreaks, including at Sydney's Newmarch House, as well as from overseas.
"We have a plan in place with each state, bearing in mind that the states and territories are individually responsible for the public health response," Senator Colbeck said.
"Obviously the Commonwealth government is responsible for the management and regulation of residential aged care but we have, as this whole process has continued, followed what's been happening, learned from the experiences we've had in previous outbreaks and implemented and acted on the advice that we've been given by our health authorities."
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