Aged care COVID-19 outbreaks growing

Alex MitchellAAP
There are more than 7000 COVID-19 cases among aged care residents, across about 1100 facilities.
Camera IconThere are more than 7000 COVID-19 cases among aged care residents, across about 1100 facilities. Credit: AAP

Some 10 million items including personal protective equipment and rapid antigen tests will be provided to aged care homes as outbreaks in them continue to grow.

It comes as providers suggest more than half of all nursing homes will soon be impacted, with more than 7000 active cases already spread across about 1100 facilities.

Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Paul Sadler said that number would rise.

"I believe there is now a risk we will have over half of all the aged care homes in Australia with outbreaks," he told the ABC.

With about three-in-four residents having received a vaccine booster injection as the Omicron variant sweeps the nation, Australian Health Services Research Institute's Professor Kathy Eagar said the federal government's planning had been "completely incompetent".

"Forty per cent of all homes in Australia have an outbreak of COVID. That is really appalling," she said.

"Every family should be really concerned about what's happening in aged care."

But Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday the aged care booster program was "well ahead of schedule".

"We have now had over 1800 facilities that have been boosted and that's increasing significantly every day," he said.

"We're on track to ensure that over the course of the coming weeks that all facilities have that program in place."

Mr Hunt said a three-pronged approach of high vaccination rates, increased workforce capacity and additional PPE meant the residents would not face neglect.

He added the government was "constantly reviewing" visa arrangements that would allow extra foreign workforce support for the sector.

A Health spokeswoman earlier told AAP that, as in previous waves, increased cases in the wider population would be reflected in case numbers in aged care.

"Aged care facilities have been implementing infection control and it is encouraging that despite the increase in cases, there has not been the same level of increase in illness or loss of life, with most facilities indicating that the cases have been more mild at this stage," she said.

Speaking at an aged care facility earlier on Tuesday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government did not adequately prepare the sector for the surge of cases.

"People in aged care are really suffering," he said.

"When people saw Scott Morrison there on TV being flippant saying, 'We're living with COVID, we're taking wickets with the virus', they were entitled to be quite angry and frustrated at the failure of this government to put in place the mechanisms that were required.

"Scott Morrison was so determined everything would be back to normal by Christmas. It just didn't reflect the health advice, it didn't reflect the advice from operators."

Mr Albanese said the lack of available rapid antigen tests was leaving elderly people isolated from families and care workers.

"We need to lift the entire sector up so our elderly get the respect in their later years and the dignity they deserve," he said.

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