Oct 26, 2021

Aged care resident who has spent 25 days in his room blasts Richard Colbeck

Aged care resident who has spent 25 days in his room blasts Richard Colbeck

A fully vaccinated 84-year-old aged care resident has made an emotional plea for help after spending close to a month confined to his bedroom due to three separate COVID cases at his facility.

Graeme Smith was visibly distressed while describing ongoing aged care lockdown restrictions to Channel 9’s Today program presenters, Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, on Monday.

 “I’m holding up. It’s rough. It’s been a rough time,” said Graeme, as he fought back tears.

Like the majority of aged care residents, Graeme revealed that he has been double vaccinated for a number of months now and has been left wondering why residents are still being plunged into long periods of isolation when almost all of them have been fully vaccinated.

“We’ve been double vaccinated for over seven months. We’re well over 90%, both staff and residents, and we’re still locked in our rooms like caged animals. The staff are wearing full PPE, it’s rough on them, very rough on them. It’s taken its toll,” he said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re over 90%, and the Premier said ‘when we get to 90% everything will be open’ but it’s not happening for us. Every time we get a case we’re locked down for 14 days.”

With his frustration continuing to build, Graeme threw down the gauntlet to industry leaders to provide some definitive answers.

It was at this point that host Karl Stefanovic introduced Minister for Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck.

Graeme addressed Mr Colbeck directly and continued his impassioned pleas for some definitive answers, but sadly, it became apparent very quickly that these are not answers that the Senator could provide. 

“There is some work and some answers on the way for you and for everyone that’s in residential aged care,” said Mr Colbeck.

“That’s why the national cabinet made a decision a couple of weeks ago to ask each state to review its procedures with respect to quarantining and visitation into residential aged care,” he said.

Mr Colbeck went on to explain that the code of conduct for visitation in aged care was currently being reviewed by both industry and consumer peak bodies and said that information would be forthcoming as soon as possible.

Despite Graeme’s calls to put an end to harsh aged care lockdowns, Mr Colbeck essentially confirmed that lockdowns will still be a tactic used to suppress outbreaks within aged care facilities moving forward.

He then pointed to the smaller number of COVID cases in aged care this year as proof of a job well done in the aged care sector.

As Mr Colbeck continued on with his positive framing of the current situation, host Allison Langdon grew tired of the Senator’s long-winded answer and reiterated Graeme’s need for a solid answer. 

“Minister, it’s not just [Graeme’s facility] that is experiencing this problem over and over and going into lockdown after lockdown after lockdown – with respect, Graeme wants to know when these changes will come into effect? I know that reviews are in place, but when will the change happen?”

At this point, Graeme’s frustrations at Mr Colbeck’s previous answer boiled over.

Mr Colbeck went on to explain that he was hoping to have some advice in the “next week or so” and that he was working closely with all states on the matter.

He also confirmed the likelihood of booster shots for aged care residents in the coming weeks.

Today host Karl Stefanovic then ended the interview and flagged that Australians are still waiting to see movement on changes that were recommended by the Aged Care Royal Commission seven months ago.

Karl’s visible frustration was also echoed by Graeme.

“I just wish that something would happen,” he said.

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  1. It’s happening in the Residential Aged Care that I work at in Reservoir Vic, our poor Residents have been in lockdown for the last 2 months plus. It’s disturbing the way the government is going about this. Our Residents are NOT prisoners!!! They are our Parents, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and more importantly they are Human beings that just want to be with family.
    How about Rapid Testing before entering for visit …
    This Urgently needs to be addressed.

    1. Why bother calling residential aged care a persons home in all the aged care guidelines and yet a person in residential care is not treated the same as if you lived in the community. If the world is opening up stop discriminating against older people. Not sure why we bothered with a Royal commission as we institutionalise and abuse residents through lockdowns under the guise of protecting them.

  2. When your resident catches covid and dies the family will loudly criticise the facility and be very vocal that not enough was done to keep them safe.
    Asked to stay in your room with tv,a/c, ensuite, food and drink and all the care staff required to keep you safe really isn’t that big a sacrifice. A walk around the hallway isn’t worth dying for and besides these restrictions have been widespread through the community for the same reason.

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