COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities continue to grow, with providers suggesting more than half will soon be impacted.
Data released late last week showed there were more than 7000 active cases among residents, spread across about 1100 facilities.
But Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Paul Sadler said that number was only rising.
“I believe there is now a risk we will have over half of all the aged care homes in Australia with outbreaks.
“That number is likely to continue to increase,” he told the ABC.
With around three-in-four residents boosted as the Omicron variant sweeps the nation, Australian Health Services Research Institute’s Professor Kathy Eagar said the Federal Government’s planning had been “completely incompetent”.
“Forty per cent of all homes in Australia have an outbreak of COVID. That is really appalling,” she said.
“I think every family should be really concerned about what’s happening in aged care.”
Eagar suggested all residents should have received booster shots before Christmas.
Speaking at an aged care facility, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the Government did not adequately prepare the sector for the surge of cases.
“People in aged care are really suffering … when people saw Scott Morrison there on TV being flippant saying, ‘We’re living with COVID, we’re taking wickets with the virus’, they were entitled to be quite angry and frustrated at the failure of this Government to put in place the mechanisms that were required,” he said.
“Scott Morrison was so determined everything would be back to normal by Christmas. It just didn’t reflect the health advice, it didn’t reflect the advice from operators.”
Albanese said the lack of available rapid antigen tests was leaving elderly people isolated from families and care workers.
“We need to lift the entire sector up so our elderly get the respect in their later years, and the dignity, they deserve,” he said.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath on Monday said boosting aged care residents with urgency was critical.
“I am concerned that not all aged care facilities have their boosters yet. And I am concerned that people in the disability sector as well (do not have boosters),” she said.
Meanwhile, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ recently-released election statement identified improving support for groups including aged care residents as a priority.
One of five initiatives for “improved patient-centred care”, the RACGP is calling for “improved support for continuous and preventive care for vulnerable Australians, particularly for aged care, mental health, and disability”.