Queensland’s health minister says the State Government has been asked to assist the private aged care sector amid outrage over how a facility near Brisbane handled a COVID-19 outbreak.
Yvette D’Ath says the Government has stepped in to help the sector and is keen to do more if asked, after reading reports of families volunteering to help loved ones at a short-staffed Noosa facility.
She was also aware of families’ anger over Jeta Gardens nursing home’s handling of COVID-19, which came to a head at a heated town hall meeting on Tuesday.
Families were furious over Jeta Gardens’ lack of communication, reportedly claiming they had been “lied to” by management during the COVID-19 surge which has claimed 15 lives at the centre, south of Brisbane.
Queensland senator Murray Watt also weighed in on Tuesday, telling federal parliament that Jeta Gardens residents were “sitting ducks” after revealing some were still not fully vaccinated a month after a deadly state outbreak had begun in December.
“Where we can help, we will,” D’Ath said when asked about families’ anger over Jeta Gardens.
“I know a number of my hospital and health services are reaching in and helping aged care facilities right now.”
D’Ath said the State Government had answered the Commonwealth’s calls to assist private aged care with PPE as well as hospital bed and staff resources “numerous times” during the COVID-19 outbreak.
She said they would be happy to do more but ultimately the sector was the Commonwealth’s responsibility.
“We are doing what we can,” she said.
“But we do not have the authority to just walk into any private residential aged care and take control.
“The Commonwealth regulates, funds and … is the one responsible.”
D’Ath welcomed the injection of defence personnel support in the sector after being concerned by reports that the Noosa facility had asked relatives to help take care of loved ones due to staff shortages.
“There is a very large number of private aged care facilities that have outbreaks right now,” she said.
“I saw a report yesterday … where families have been asked to come in and volunteer, and families are stepping up and doing that.
“That is wonderful but it shouldn’t be reliant on just families volunteering…they should be reaching out to the Commonwealth and asking that those centres have those defence force personnel there urgently.”