Sep 30, 2020

Faster public health response might have saved some aged care residents’ lives: Brendan Murphy

Federal Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy has admitted some COVID deaths in aged care might have been prevented if there had been a quicker public health response.

Murphy, Chief Medical Officer until mid year, told the COVID Senate committee “if the public health response had been more prompt, then we might have avoided some of the scale of the outbreaks in Victoria”.

He said some of the spread among facilities might have been avoided if the federal-state Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (initiated by the Commonwealth) had been stood up earlier – “if we’d been aware, had prior warning, that the public health response may have been compromised”.

It was not possible to say what proportion of aged care deaths could have been prevented, he said.

“As we have said on many occasions, once you had widespread community outbreaks, wide aged care outbreaks and unfortunately, deaths, particularly of people who are very frail and close to end of life, are inevitable.

“But quite likely that with the benefit of hindsight and responding with a response centre … a little bit earlier, we may well have been able to prevent some of the spread.”

Murphy was treading on sensitive ground for the federal government. Aged care is a federal responsibility. The states have responsibility for public health (although the Commonwealth, under the constitution has a quarantine power).

Murphy, who was still giving evidence, later reacted following the chair of the senate committee, Labor’s Katy Gallagher, tweeting:

He disputed Gallagher’s interpretation, stressing to the committee that the federal government acted as soon as it was aware the public health response was failing, and that it was not in a position to act earlier.

He described the public health response as “a partnership”.

Murphy also said the minutes of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee were confidential because it is a committee of the national cabinet.

On Wednesday the inquiry into COVID in aged care, done by the aged care royal commission, will be presented to the governor-general. It will be publicly released this week.


This story was originally published by The Conversation

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  1. Brendan Murphy should be strung up!

    For him to say lives might have been saved if they arrived earlier is a disgrace.

    His health departments forbid residents from going to hospital if they had covid. They ordered ambulances to not pick them up.
    They ordered that residents were to stay in their own beds and rooms beside or near covid affected residents because of “Advanced Care Directives”.
    ACDs are a care document that tells, under normal circumstances how that resident wishes to pass. In most circumstances residents choose to pass pain free and in their own room. This document was extensively used against facilities and residents to the extent that many cases weren’t even allowed to isolate affected residents in the one area.

    These state authorities exasperated the death toll. Nursing homes don’t have the equipment, the ability to isolate properly or the expertise and they were never expected to.

    If the very first resident suspected of having covid was allowed to transfer to designated covid wards (still sitting mostly empty) then this pandemic would have been less catestrophic.
    This death toll is not on nursing homes, this is on the heads of government!


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