The revelation comes despite the fact that back in February, the Minister for Health Greg Hunt said vaccinations will be available for aged care staff through an in-reach program in their workplaces.
At the time Hunt said, “Vaccination for residents and staff will be made available through residential aged care facilities where they live or work, and it will be administered through an in-reach workforce provider.”
In the same statement, the Minister for Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck said the federal government would be responsible for leading the implementation of the vaccination program in aged care.
“The responsibilities are clearly delineated so all parties understand their role in this critical and complex program,” Colbeck said.
“In the coming weeks, the vaccination program will reach more than 2,600 residential aged care facilities, more than 183,000 residents and 339,000 staff,” the statement said.
And now a spokesperson for Aspen Medical, Eamonn Quinn, said their company was only ever asked to administer the vaccination to aged care workers when doses were left over after all residents had been vaccinated, according to a report in The Age.
He said Aspen has only ever been contracted to administer the vaccination to residents, not staff.
The Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck told HelloCare the priority was always to vaccinate residents first “as they are at higher risk”.
“Based on medical advice, it was determined a risk to vaccinate all staff at the same time in case there were adverse reactions leaving facilities short of staff,” the minister said.
He added that the government would like to see as many members of the aged care workforce vaccinated as soon as possible.
Colbeck said the rollout had to be “reset” after health advice discouraging vaccinating residents and staff at the same time, and about giving AstraZeneca to people under 50.
Since then, the government has worked with states and territories to open as many avenues to access a vaccine as possible, including GP clinics, Commonwealth respiratory clinics, state-run AstraZeneca and Pfizer clinics, on-site provider clinics and 50 roving clinics in Victoria.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said, “The Morrison government must come clean about their private aged care vaccination contracts – did they ask them to vaccinate staff?”
“Don’t blame staff for not being vaccinated when you never told them you had no intention to vaccinate them at their workplace,” she said.
“The royal commission revealed the private aged care system was in crisis before the pandemic, Australia needs an aged care minister who will never be comfortable until residents and staff are properly protected from COVID-19.”
Fitzpatrick called on Senator Colbeck to resign.
“We need a minister who gets things done with a sense of urgency, care and respect for the residents and the dedicated staff.
“The Morrison Government has abandoned Victoria’s private aged care nurses and personal care workers.”
In Victoria, Health Care Australia is also administering vaccines, with a government contract to the tune of $30 million. The Aspen Medical contract is worth $25 million.
The focus on vaccinations in Victoria’s aged care homes comes after an aged care worker who worked at both Arcare Maidstone and BlueCross Western Gardens in Sunshine tested positive to COVID-19.
The state’s outbreak has now affected five aged care homes.
Last year, the federal government required aged care workers to only work at one home, but the rule was abandoned in November, only to be reinstated last week.
Almost 2,000 aged care residents contracted COVID-19 last year during Victoria’s devastating second wave and 655 died.
Residents at all of Victoria’s 596 aged care homes have now had their first vaccine, and residents in 382 homes have received their second jab.
HelloCare contacted Senator Colbeck for comment but had not received a reply at the time of publishing.