Sep 12, 2022

Majority of aged care COVID deaths occurred this year

12_9_22 Covid deaths

Federal Government statistics have revealed three-quarters of Australia’s aged care COVID-19 deaths have taken place in 2022, despite survival rates rising significantly since the start of the pandemic.

Analysis of the Federal health data showed more than 3,000 people have died with COVID in aged care facilities this year.

During 2020, 75%of all COVID deaths were people living in residential aged care.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells told the Sydney Morning Herald every COVID-19 death was a “tragedy”, but the risk of dying from the virus is decreasing.

Since the rollout of vaccines, the aged care COVID survival rate has risen from 66%in 2020 to 96.5% currently. 

“We’ve left no stone unturned in managing the response to COVID-19 in aged care,” she said.

“We have extended the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) role in aged care until the end of September and have a surge workforce that provided 1,704 shifts last week.”

More than 10,000 Australians have died from the virus in 2022. During the first two years of the pandemic, NSW and Victoria’s aged care sectors were hit hard by outbreaks which saw visitors banned or heavily restricted in many facilities.

According to the Health Department data, more than 495 aged care facilities were locked down across Australia during the 2021/2022 holiday period, but the country’s response was mild compared to other parts of the world.

Canada experienced more than 17 times the number of deaths in aged care homes in that period, with 15,855 deaths at residential care homes (52%).

Earlier this year, the Federal Government introduced a Winter Plan to help deal with the escalating wave of cases during the colder months, and last week passed a bill in Parliament to overhaul the sector, including a mandate for aged care homes to have 24/7 nurses. 

But Independent Member of Parliament (MP) for Mayo in South Australia, Rebekha Sharkie, has said the Federal Government should be scrutinised more over the rising number of COVID-19 deaths in aged care.

“If we look back at the last Parliament, there were questions asked every day of the Aged Care Minister,” Ms Sharkie told the ABC on Sunday.

The MP called for transparency around how aged care homes are being supported through repeated COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done around ventilation and staffing numbers.

“COVID has not ended. The pandemic is still with us,” she said.

“If that was last year, it would have been on the front of every newspaper, every day.”

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