Oct 29, 2020

New evidence reveals hundreds of aged care facilities were refused PPE when they needed it most

As coronavirus outbreaks wreaked havoc through our aged care system, more than 1500 facilities had their requests for personal protection equipment refused by the government. 

According to new evidence, as coronavirus ripped through aged care facilities, leaving hundreds of residents dead, the severity of the outbreaks could have been prevented with earlier access to PPE provided by the government. 

According to information from the Department of Health, of the 2865 aged care providers who requested PPE from the National Medical Stock, only 1324 of those requests were approved.

“The government has approached this challenge in a terribly reactive manner,” said Gerard Hayes, president of the Health Services Union.

“We know that access to PPE prevented outbreaks at some facilities during the pandemic. The importance of PPE was especially obvious after the Newmarch House fiasco.

“That’s why we wrote to the minister as the crisis was unfolding to insist the federal government immediately supply all aged care facilities with appropriate PPE supplies” he said.

During the COVID-19 outbreak across Australia, 216 aged care facilities experienced outbreaks, the bulk in Victoria. During those outbreaks, 683 aged care residents died with COVID-19. 

From the beginning of the pandemic, aged care providers were making requests to the NMS, and being refused. For those who then turned to purchasing the stock, “there was not availability, and there was price gouging” said Patricia Sparrow, chief executive of Aged and Community Services Australia. 

“Hospitals prepare for these types of outbreaks routinely, but the key thing was we’re not set up like hospitals,” she said.

According to evidence, in March there were 910 aged care providers around Australia requesting PPE from the NMS. Only 214 of those requests were approved.

Just one month later, as Newmarch House fell victim to Australia’s first major aged care outbreak, there were 178 requests in NSW, with 128 rejections. In Victoria at the same time, of 127 requests, there were 90 refusals. 

By July and August, as the situation in Victoria’s aged care system was at its peak, out of 1180 requests for PPE, 364 care facilities had their requests for assistance refused. 

“While Australia’s heroic aged care workers were doing everything they could to protect older Australians from COVID-19, the Morrison Government was busy short-changing them,” Julie Collins, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors said in a statement. 

“The Morrison Government needs to immediately explain why so many providers asked for PPE but didn’t get it.” 

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