Jan 14, 2022

Pressure mounts for end date on hard lockdowns for aged care residents

Aged care resident in lockdown (1)

Ian Yates, Council on the Ageing (COTA) CEO, argues that implementing the lockdown policy in residential facilities at the beginning of an outbreak makes sense, however, this approach cannot be without end. 

Speaking to Sky News recently he said, “We are seeing far too many residents being locked up for very long periods of time when they indeed are fully vaccinated [and] the staff are all vaccinated.”

Continuing he highlighted, “We want to keep Omicron to the bare minimum, we are not going to keep it out of aged care when it’s widespread in the community but the impact is much, much less than in 2020 when we didn’t have the vaccines.”

The most imminent impact is maintaining the necessary staffing levels while the ability to access rapid antigen tests in aged care is largely difficult. Consequently the return of many staff and visitors to facilities is being significantly restricted.

Mr Yates asserted that facilities need to be proactive in manoeuvring to sidestep prolonged lockdowns.

“But you cannot – in terms of their mental health and their physical health – keep residents locked away for long periods of time and unfortunately that’s what’s been happening.”

Mr Yates advocates for residents to be permitted an essential visitor, who can be seen as a pseudo-staff member, to maintain communication and a relationship with them. 

Speaking as Labor’s aged care spokeswoman, Clare O’Neil has been critical of the federal government sustaining “diabolical” conditions within aged care facilities. She argues that staff and residents have been overlooked for most of the recent decade. 

O’Neil also focussed on the low booster levels of staff, highlighting that less than one in three has been administered a third jab. 

However, a spokesperson for Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt conveyed that senior Australians throughout the pandemic have been prioritised, observing that Australia has maintained one of the lowest rates of death in aged care through the pandemic. 

Commenting on the government delivering 5.6 million rapid antigen tests to aged care residences, the spokesperson remarked this to be “the largest deployment across the country of tests from the national medical stockpile”.

Over 1,700 facilities have seen boosters administered to eligible residents and employees with a greater than 99% vaccination rate among workers. 

Nationwide facilities are set for completion this month, the spokesperson noted. 

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  1. Rarely do I agree with COTA but on the lockdown policy I do feel that the policy around aged care restrictions is not best practice.
    While the community is accepting the inevitable that there is a high chance of us all catching covid nursing homes are standing still and not keeping up. My fear is that homes will be in this exact position in three or six months time. Still struggling to keep covid at bay while society has moved on.
    I feel like a boy standing on the beach praying for the tide to not come in!

    The lack of assistance,direction and of course funding has exacerbated an already stretched nursing home sector. PPE , That’s and
    additional staff costs have been studiously ignored by the federal government and the states are useless to us.

    Federal government tells us to talk to the state bodies and the states tell us that we are the federal governments problem.

    And where are our peak bodies LASA, ACSA..MIA!
    Zero support.

  2. Even if you have the booster you’re still at risk, so what’s the end result? Staff in most Aged Care places have been double vaccinated, you cannot force the booster too soon either, therefore many are awaiting the 3rd, and a large percentage of residents have had all 3 of them.. I’ve been off for 8 days now, was retested yesterday and still positive!! Double jab too…..

  3. As an aged care physiotherapist it’s difficult to witness the level of functional decline in most isolated residents. We all know how detrimental bed rest is for recovery. People need to move to stay healthy. Being confined to their small room, with minimal social interaction in almost inhumane.

    And then observing that majority of infected residents have minimal symptoms. It seems the lockdowns are too harsh, for the potential consequences of getting infected.

    From my view, the overall negative health impacts from these lockdowns are greater then a possible COVID infection for a fully vaccinated resident.

  4. All this vaccination, booster shots,PCR testing and RAT should be enough. If not too much now! If most residents and staff are vaccinated what more can you do? Did anyone go to these extreme levels when the flu was killing so many? I think we should all just move on and accept that we have done more than enough.

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