Home | News | Minister denies lack of inspections amid calls for compassionate approach to family visits
Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas.

Minister denies lack of inspections amid calls for compassionate approach to family visits

Federal mininster for aged care Richard Colbeck has refuted allegations made by the ABC that no inspections of nursing homes have been carried out since the outbreak of COVID-19, and that there has been a lack of commitment to controlling infections.

Colbeck said “there has never been closer interaction between Government, regulator and the sector”.

“The focus of all parties since the outbreak has been to ensure those most susceptible to the impacts of the virus have been protected and the sector prepared.”

He said the government had engaged with the aged care sector regularly since late January and has twice weekly meetings with providers and the peak bodies to ensure regular and clear communication.

Referring to the enforced restriction of access to residential facilities, Mr Colbeck said measures had been put in place to “ensure families can maintain connection with loved ones and to be sympathetic to individual issues particularly for those in palliative care and those with dementia”.

While acknowledging the importance of these measures, COTA chief executive Ian Yates recently called for a compassionate and commonsense approach, arguing that these measures were being used as a means for “unacceptable restraint on the rights of residents and families”.

“Compassion and respect on an individual basis are key to the implementation of these measures,” Mr Yates said, “not the cookie cutter approaches, top down edicts and lack of sensitivity and common-sense some residents and families are experiencing”.  

“Contact with family and loved ones is a crucial part of care for many aged care residents, such as those with dementia,” said Mr Yates.

“Restrictions on aged care visits during this crisis must not be a result of panicked response, or driven by provider convenience, or by concerns about profits.”

Speaking to The Guardian about the response from BaptistCare to the situation at Sydney’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge, Yates said the sector had been “taken a bit by surprise”.

“To some degree they have swung too much the other way. In some places there are no cases at all but they have gone into complete lockdown and not let family visit at all,” he said.

This position was echoed recently by Chair of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Tony Pagone, who cautioned against the “unintended consequences of the otherwise understandable and reasonable steps which have been taken to ensure for their safety”.

Pagone pointed out that restricting visits meant residents could be missing out on supplementary care provided by family members.

“[This] may require creative measures to supplement the personal human contact that may be restricted or removed during these times: it may require, for example, providing access to electronic devices to enable more constant contact through video platforms where that is feasible and meaningful,” he said.

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  1. The vulnerability of people in aged care to this virus cannot be overstated. Given aged care services have very low levels of support and govt assistance compared to the hospital and health system it is understandable that providers are being cautious to protect people and their staff as an outbreak will be very difficult to manage. Its an issue of basic safety priority of a risk related to life and death.

  2. Wow! I thought i was alone in this battle. This story reflects the exact issues, roadblocks and responses I’ve experienced trying to get safe, reasonable visiting access to my mother. State and federal governments, and the provider are all pointing the finger at each other whilst our loved ones are being imprisoned.
    Welcome to Australia!

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