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.