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Employment minister not convinced aged care facilities are in COVID crisis

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Government minister Stuart Robert has refuted a new survey in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper revealing the nation’s aged care system is so overstretched, many elderly residents are going without food and drink and even essential medication.

Appearing on the Nine Network’s Today show in an interview with co-host Karl Stefanovic and deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell, the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, and Acting Minister for Education and Youth seemed to dismiss the survey as a biased union beat-up.

A fired up Stefanovic decried that “we’re letting the most vulnerable people in our society down again – and this is after multiple inquiries, royal commissions. This is just not good enough,” he said.

“I’ve read the story. It came out of a union release and survey, Karl,” was Robert’s response.

He went on to explain that $17.7 billion has been poured into aged care, and 89 million RAT test have been ordered, ‘all coming through in January and February”.

“… as a workforce minister, Karl, we’re super keen to get more and more Australians into this vital area,” Robert explained.

“That’s why there’s 37,000 free training places through JobTrainer.

“And I’d really encourage Australians who’ve got a passion for loving our senior Australians, get involved in that training.

“There are great career options there.”

Stefanovic’s retort was withering.

“Why on earth would you go and work in an aged care facility when you’re getting 22 bucks an hour?” he asked.

When pushed as to whether he thought the survey had any truth to it, that residents were going without water and without food in some circumstances, and without, more importantly, medication, Robert was dubious.

“There are so many incredibly decent aged care workers in facilities right across the country.

“The idea that so many Australians would be denied basic food and water, and that the lovely staff in aged care centres would be doing that, I think defies belief.

“There’s a lot of work going into our aged care sector to ensure it continues to be world class.

Asked to respond, Caldwell was equally sceptical of the minister’s response.

“I don’t really think that answer’s good enough,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s good enough to dismiss it as a union position.

“I mean … the issues in the aged care sector have been very well documented.

“And we know, in this pandemic, you know, these people are our most vulnerable.

“They’ve had the toughest time fundamentally even now with Omicron.

“I think it’s quite a devastating report.”

Later in the show, aged care worker Donna Cappelluti appeared via video link explaining why she’d resigned from her position.

When it was suggested to her by Stefanovic that Robert ‘doesn’t seem to think there’s a problem’, she responded “enter any aged care facility you’ll see there’s a problem as soon as you walk in”.

“I’ve spoken to alot of people in many different facilities and nothing changes, it’s exactly the same story everywhere,” she said.

“It’s not enough staff, everyone under the pump, being asked to do extra shifts all of the time.

“It’s at breaking point – we’re two years into a pandemic and we’ve reached the ultimate crisis.”

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